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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Opera Review
The Marriage of Figaro
The original romantic comedy, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro first performed in 1786, is given a bright slashing production at the Los Angeles Opera. Directed by Ian Judge, long-time opera and Royal Shakespeare Company director, with his usual sly flair and conducted by Placido Domingo with loving attention to detail, its every inch a winner.
It takes place on the eve of Figaro and Susannah's wedding and turns on the renunciation of Count Almaviva of the droit du seigneur. This feudal custom allowed the lord of the manor to claim the maidenhood of his serf on her wedding night. The Count has voluntarily renounced his rights but, as the opera begins, he sorely regrets doing so and hopes to persuade Susanna voluntarily to observe the custom. Susanna and Figaro win out by trickery.
As well as the sparkling trios and duets, Mozart also composed such lyric arias as Se vuol ballare, signor Contino ("If you wish to dance that style, then I'll call the tune") and the rich soprano arias such as the Countess's Porgi Amor. Based on Beaumarchais' play, Mozart's work is complimented by the brilliant verbal and dramatic skills of librettist Lorenzo da Ponte.
Daniel Okulitch, last seen here in the title role of The Fly, essays the title role again as Figaro. He has the voice but brings no distinctive flavor or comic dimension to the role. The famed Danish baritone Bo Skovhus plays the Count, who enters in a dressing gown open to the waist displaying his splendid physique, and plays the ends of the part as a vainglorious buffoon who sings gloriously.
All four women are superb. Marlis Petersen as Susannah brings a silver soprano and a petite elfin spin to the part. As the Countess, Martina Serafin has a rich physical and vocal beauty. Ronnita Nicole Miller as Marcellina has a flair for comedy and an opulent mezzo-soprano voice. Last, but far from least, Renata Pokupic plays Cherubino, the trousers part of the Countess's page. Pokupic is rakish, rascally and, except when she sings such arias as Voi che sapete, in a beautiful mezzo-soprano, every inch a boy. Christopher Gillett as the singing teacher Don Basilio brings a British tenor and a waspish humor to the role.
Tim Goodchild designed the breathtaking sets. Act One opened with Figaro dashing a great splash of red paint onto an incredibly high background. Chandeliers and narrow trees dropped from the ceiling. And the opera ends in a great burst of fireworks, ear-splitting, amazing and a fitting tribute to this production of Mozart's Marriage.