Belcher and Jamie-Rose Guarrine (photo by Kathy Wittman)
It’s hard to go wrong with The Marriage of Figaro. The music is glorious, the characters are charming and Beaumarchais’ story is full of twists and turns, and has some moments of genuine pathos.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Figaro is a walk in the piazza. It demands a solid team of of strong soloists, and it can be a long evening if any of them lack the stage presence or acting chops needed to drive the story.
The Florentine Opera’s production of Figaro that opened Friday night (and which, alas, closed on Sunday afternoon) was chock full of vocal and acting talent. And the music was all it was supposed to be under Joseph Rescigno’s conducting. There was a gleeful spirit in much of the playing, with rhythms that buoyed the melody and drove the action. Orchestra and voices were in perfect balance—no small task for the tricky acoustics of Uihlein Hall—and Rescigno shaped Mozart’s phrases beautifully.
Director Candace Evans staged the story with a playful spirit, with moments that ranged from high melodrama (like the Countess’s lover’s lament, “Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro”), to playful physical comedy, and even to downright silliness (such as the campy, Gilbert & Sullivan-style “chorus line” ensembles that closed a few of the acts).
It all served one of the most high-spirited operas in the canon, and the music matched the mood perfectly.
The two baritones, Daniel Belcher (Figaro) and Craig Verm (Count Almaviva) have similar voices—warm and expressive, with power when it’s needed. Even as the Figaro part took Belcher into the lower register, he was able to articulate Mozart’s phrases well. The sopranos, Jamie-Rose Guarrine (Susanna) and Diana McVey (Countess Almaviva), couldn’t be more different. Guarrine’s voice is sweet and supple in just the right “romantic-lead” style. And McVey’s—reflecting her characters more troubled life—is more burnished and resonant. But together—as in the duet “Sull ‘aria”—they blend beautifully.
The supporting cast is equally skilled, particularly Adriana Zabala as Cherubino (the “pants role”), who musically captures the childhood innocence of the part. Frank Kelley (Don Basilio), Matthew Lau (Doctor Bartolo) and Jenni Bank (Marcellina) round out the leading roles, pairing a great comic sense with sure voices.