Mozart can take some credit for the rapt audience attention and the guffaws that peppered the three hours of the Wolf Trap Opera’s opening-night performance of “The Marriage of Figaro” at the Barns on Friday but just some. The production itself floated on just the right balance of energy and delicacy, slapstick and pathos, and on the intimacy of a small stage and a chamber-size hall.
So Mozart has to share credit with Director David Paul and his sure sense of theater; with scenic designer Wilson Chin, who imagined and built an elegant, splendidly flexible set; with conductor Kathleen Kelly, who whipped orchestra and singers into a seamless entity; with Joseph Li, who unfurled cascades of continuo on the fortepiano; and with a cast of young singers, who, for the most part, sang and acted with artistic panache. And the singers’ Italian diction was so clean that you almost didn’t need the voluminous surtitles.
It is Figaro and his adored Susanna’s wedding day, and foiling the plans of Figaro’s boss, the Count, to exercise his droit du seigneur (a feudal lord’s claimed right to bed the bride first) is high on Figaro’s to-do list. Complicating the situation are the Countess’s efforts to win back her husband’s affections; an over-sexed page; and a debt Figaro owes to an older woman.
The real adults in this ménage are Susanna and the Countess, who are the realists in the silliness that surrounds them. Talya Lieberman was a captivating Susanna, able to make a point with the merest flick of a finger. Her voice, light but a little edgy early in the proceedings, found a comfortable warmth by Act 4, losing none of its agility for her aria “Deh vieni, non tardar.” With her generous soprano, Kerriann Otano’s Countess projected both longing and understanding. Her “Dove sono” was a philosophical utterance, rather than the standard creamy stream of longing.
The male roles in this opera were a more squirrelly lot. Figaro was sung by baritone Thomas Richards, vocally first-rate but limited dramatically — and since he does quite a lot of sneaking around and plotting, this was a significant drawback. Reginald Smith Jr. was an imposing Count — a big guy with a gorgeous big guy’s baritone voice. Mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis was outstanding in the trouser role of the page, Cherubino, her “Voi che sapete” lovely, light and full of longing.
In the smaller roles, Jenni Bank as the avid Marcellina, Christian Zaremba as old Bartolo, Alex Rosen as the drunk gardener, Anthony Ciaramitaro as the music master Basilio, Amy Owens as Barbarina, Cherubino’s real girlfriend, and Joshua Sanders as the stuttering magistrate were stylishly excellent.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer. The last two performances are on Wednesday and Saturdayat 7:30 p.m. at the Barns at Wolf Trap.