In Review > North America

Le Nozze di Figaro

DALLAS
Dallas Opera
10/24/14

In Review Dallas Figaro lg 1115
Athletic and eager: Palazzi as Figaro in Dallas
© Karen Almond, Dallas Opera 2015

Something unexpected but wonderful happened on opening night of Dallas Opera’s fall season: the projector for the supertitles broke down for all of Act II of Le Nozze di Figaro (Oct. 24). The audience, far from becoming restive and annoyed, seemed to grow more attentive. Everyone was compelled to look at and listen to the opera more closely, rather than read overhead what was going on. For example, in the erotic interplay between Cherubino and the Countess, and during the great comic finale of the act — Count Almaviva on the verge of violence, Susannah emerging from the closet, the entrances of Antonio the gardener with his flowerpot, and of Marcellina, Basilio and Bartolo with their demand for justice — one did not have to know the language to get the meaning of Mozart and da Ponte’s indestructible masterpiece. 

The production, owned by Lyric Opera of Chicago, was designed by John Bury, with lighting by Mark McCullough. Kevin Moriarty, of the Dallas Theater Center, was the stage director. The singers moved nimbly but conventionally. There was little sense of class warfare or anything potentially explosive other than Almaviva’s outburst in Act II. The sets and costumes were also conventional and tastefully rococo. Nothing was over the top. 

The best news of the evening was the conducting of Emmanuel Villaume, Dallas Opera’s new music director. He took the overture at what seemed breakneck speed but managed a moving contrast between forte and piano sections. The winds, especially, played with crispness and delicacy. At a couple of moments during the evening, the orchestra got ahead of the singers, but by and large Villaume produced wonderful music.

Best of the women was American mezzo Emily Fons, who delivered a thoroughly believable Cherubino, with a nervous sexuality and rich timbre that displayed virtually no breaks between registers. She sang “Non so più” with palpable passion, perched on a ladder. Australian soprano Nicole Car, who was making her American debut, made a strong impression as the Countess. She began “Porgi amor” lying down on her bed, at the rear of the stage, then sat up, rose from the bed and walked forward. The dramatic touch complemented her slow, increasingly stately vocal delivery. Car, who has a commanding physical presence, endowed the Countess with a full and deep humanity. There was some acidulousness in her voice, especially in “Dove sono”; in the letter duet with Susannah, Car took the lead, allowing the two soprano voices to melt into one. Austrian soprano Beate Ritter, also making her American debut, was physically and dramatically a spritely, lively Susannah. The top of her voice was clear and elegant, though she had trouble in the lower register and was occasionally overwhelmed by the orchestra. Her duet with the Count in Act III was a delicious moment, and in Act IV’s thrilling “Deh vieni, non tardar,” Ritter’s vocal delivery perfectly captured Susannah’s wit and romantic longing. Veteran mezzo Diana Montague’s Marcellina was an object lesson in vocal and dramatic efficiency. Angela Mannino made of Barbarina’s throwaway cavatina, “L’ho perduta,” a delectable prelude to the deeper action of Act IV. 

Joshua Hopkins (Count Almaviva) and Kevin Langan (Bartolo) offered complementary versions of masculinity, the first young, brooding and sexual, the second mature, wise and crafty.

The evening belonged to Mirco Palazzi, in the title role. Boyish, athletic and eager, Palazzi also has an amazing, rich, deep voice. His Figaro had youthful virility as well as worldly know-how. Although “Se vuol ballare” sounded hesitant, with a less than ideal legato and some vocal catches, “Non più andrai” was a marked improvement, showing off smoother legato, exquisite diction and nimbleness of vocal delivery. “Aprite un po’ quegli occhi” revealed the complexities in this relatively simple, easygoing man, who opens his heart to us. spacer 

WILLARD SPIEGELMAN

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