In Review > North America

Le Nozze di Figaro

VIENNA, VA
Wolf Trap Opera
6/17/15

Judging by a vocally cohesive, theatrically fresh season-opening production of Le Nozze di Figaro, Wolf Trap Opera reaped a bumper crop of gifted young singers from the company's nationwide auditions for 2015. Just about everything clicked on June 17 in the Barns at Wolf Trap. The cast jumped into the piece with what seemed like second-nature ease, handling the music's demands as naturally as the stage business. The latter element, under the direction David Paul, was brisk and clever, providing enough little twists to the familiar comic moments to keep things interesting. Wilson Chin's understated set design allowed for quite a seamless flow to the action, which was updated harmlessly to the late nineteenth century (Figaro's servant uniform would have enabled him to fit right in at Downton Abbey). Musically, the performance was dominated by baritone Reginald Smith, Jr. as Almaviva, and not only because he had the largest physique of the singers. He also produced an enormous sound to go with the frame, enough, probably, to shake the rafters of nearby buildings. What counted even more was how beautifully controlled through the registers that sound was, and how the application of many a subtle inflection gave his phrasing communicative weight. Smith's finely detailed account of his Act III aria proved to be a show-stopper, his hushed delivery of the Count's plea for forgiveness a time-stopper. There was a good deal to admire in Kerriann Otaño's Countess as well. The soprano's plummy tone, with its mezzo-y tints, would have benefited from more gradation of dynamics, but the phrasing, especially in “Dove sono,” revealed considerable eloquence. Part of that eloquence came from the tasteful application of embellishment, which all the principals employed throughout the performance to valuable effect.

Thomas Richards sang the title role with a sizable, attractive voice. If more firmness at either end of his range would have been welcome, there was abundant warmth and color. As Susanna, Talya Lieberman complemented her endearing portrayal with vocal charm, molding her light, somewhat fluttery soprano in delectably stylish fashion. Some wan low notes aside, her account of “Deh vieni non tardar” proved as technically refined as it was poetically compelling. Looking every bit like a teenage, impetuous boy, Abigail Levis sailed through the role of Cherubino, leaving an impressive vocal glow in her wake; she sculpted “Voi che sapete,” in particular, with terrific tonal and textual sensitivity.  Jenni Bank seemed to be channeling Patti LuPone as Marcellina; the performance had great snap, vocal and theatrical. Amy Owens warbled sweetly as Barbarina, and the other soloists, along with the chorus, did vibrant, confident work. In the pit, Kathleen Kelly conducted a generally tidy, smartly-paced account of the score. The orchestra needed more polished violins, but otherwise articulated with a flair that matched the continual spark onstage. —Tim Smith

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