Anew opera company (small, energetic and financially challenged as such companies tend to be) made a sparkling debut Saturday evening to a sold-out audience at the Lyceum in Alexandria. The Forgotten Opera Company has not been around long enough to slip from memory, and the first opera it produced, Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," is certainly not forgotten, but perhaps the name is a promise of things to come -- maybe Paisiello's "Barber of Seville" or Salieri's "Music First, Then Words." Meanwhile, they treated "The Marriage of Figaro" with a loving irreverence close to the opera's own spirit.

The opera's setting is moved up to present-day Hollywood, with such modern amenities as cell phones, faxes and tabloid papers. Almaviva is a mogul who uses the casting couch as his equivalent of the droit de seigneur; Figaro and Susanna are studio employees, as are most of the other characters. Cherubino is sent off to a military academy rather than the army when he incurs Almaviva's displeasure, Marcellina is younger and sexier than usual in this production, and the drunken old gardener, Antonio, is a flamboyantly gay wedding designer.

The most completely integrated characterization is Kiersten Drumm's well-acted and sung Cherubino. In general, the women's voices were more pleasing than the men's but all were adequate. The English-language adaptation, done by stage director Debbie Niezgoda and the cast, worked out well, with a fine air of spontaneity and a lot of Hollywood humor. Spoken dialogue was substituted for recitatives, giving more prominence to the cast's considerable acting skills. Music director LeAnna Xanthos-McQueen presided at the piano and Dingwall Fleary conducted a performance that will not be soon forgotten.

-- Joseph McLellan