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Subject: Wash National Opera opens the season with miraculous Marriage of Figaro(Le nozze di Figaro)(9/22/16)
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Date:Sat, 24 Sep 2016 19:24:52 +0000
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While Thursday night was indeed the first performance of Nozze at WNO this season, the gala opening night is indeed tonight with both a simulcast to Nats Stadium as well as a post-opera opening night party back at the Kennedy Center. I'll head off to the stadium as that's enough partying for me! 
Countess Almaviva: Amanda Majeski 
Susanna: Lisette Oropesa 
Count Almaviva: Joshua Hopkins 
Figaro: Ryan McKinny 
Cherubino: Aleksandra Romano 
Marcellina: Elizabeth Bishop 
Dr. Bartolo: Valeriano Lanchas 
Don Basilio: Keith Jameson 
Don Curzio: Rexford Tester 
Barbarina: Ariana Wehr 
Antonio: Timothy J. Bruno 

Director: Peter Kazaras 
Conductor: James Gaffigan 
Scenery Designer: Benoit Dugardyn 
Costume Designer: Myung Hee Cho 
Lighting Designer: Mark McCullough 
Choreographer/Fight Master: Kevin Williamson 


Apparently nobody had read the week or two of notices or heard the reports in the news about the closing of Rock Creek Parkway for 3 years of construction (albeit in parts) and at 745pm Francesca Zambello emerged from the red and gold curtain to explain there would be a slight delay for those who had not heard the news as the traffic outside and all over the city was horrendous (it took me 25 minutes to get to the KenCen instead of the normal 10) and several hundred people still had not arrived. . We began shortly thereafter with the National Anthem and another 200 people or so streamed in during the first act for late seating! 
The production from Glimmerglass Opera is light-hearted and does not have that worn down feel so many Figaro sets seem to go for with the Count/Countess becoming poorer. 
This was glam white columns with gold that seemed to multiply like rabbits with each act. First we had six across the stage front with an odd backdrop of faux curtained walls which had doors embedded in them. Across the top was "Perdono non merta chi agli altri non da," from the opera which means "He merits not pardon, he who can not forgive." The costumes were elaborate, gilded, frothy and colorful and at times overdone to perfect excess (such as Basilio). 
From the start I was totally taken by Ryan McKinney hose voice seemed so wonderfully lower than usual for Figaro and less than lyric. The deepness made me like the character more and give him more force than sometimes comes across with lighter baritones. 
It was such a pleasure to have Mr. Lanchas back in a superbly comic role and done up in red silk britches and finery. His "La vendetta" started off the comedy well and Ms. Bishop was a perfect foil as Marcellina (read the article on her in last Sunday's Washington Post) never over hamming it up; indeed Mr. Kazaras never took the comedy to slapstick, just far enough to even get a laugh out of me. Ms. Romano has now completed our YA program and has well earned the role of Cheribuno which she embodies so well; indeed, she occupies the character. 
Mr. Hopkins Count walks on with a swagger of John Wayne in a long robe with his shirt open to his pupick(bellybutton) and indeed pulls it open further for Susanna to see as he stares at himself in a large mirror. Mr.Jameson, in a long overdue company debut, was the epitome of Basilio almost swarmy at times, but also going to extremes that worked so well. When he screetched "Meglio ancora" at Cherubino's discovery beneath the blanket he squirmed with pleasure at the scandal. 
It was weird to have the supers dressed in formal lackey outfits actually setting the set for Act II during "Non piu andrai" but it was cool the way they pulled all the furniture cloths off as the act ended and Act II started without any stop. The rear wall rose to reveal a huge canopied bed with chest at its foot with the Contessa in a long pink robe over her peach gown. Ms. Majeski in another debut (although she sang in DC with WCO), seemed ill at ease in her first aria but that changed quickly and her finals acts were firm and delivered with grace and skill. 
Cherubino arrives in tres chic blue and red military garb and when the Count arrives I laughed hard when he tried to hide in the giant chest he could not fit in! Prior to this some fun was had with him falling as he tried to curtsy. 
I loved the way the entire group handled the finale, first with the superb Antonio of YA Mr. Bruno and then with the "sugello" scene and Figaro jumping for joy like a kid when he figured out what the Count & Susanna were miming to him. Meanwhile, Basilio has sat down at the Contessa's dressing table and taken her coffee. The finale was done with in their face lighting of the leads at the edge of the stage while the rear was darker which I loved. 

We returned after intermission (this is in two parts) to a large areas with about 20 columns now and a formal 18th century writing desk for the Count. I loved the way the Contessa stayed at the very rear to overhear the scene with Susanna & the Count until Susanna agrees to meet him in the garden. I adored Mr. Hopkin's "Hai gia vinta la causa" and oodly it made him seem more like a sleaze grabbing every woman in sight; nobody felt sorry for him. YA Mr. Tester rolls on as Curzio in a wheelchair with white hair which was also a bit funny, and during this entire scene the (salt) shaker on the Count's desk (used to dry the ink for letters) rolls on the floor by mistake. Figaro, quick to think and so in character, ran over, grabbed the shaker and threw some salt over his shoulder before placing it back for the next scene with Susanna & the Countess (where it is used to help dry the letter). 
The recognition scene is always funny, and no less here as well; indeed as Susanna enters, the Count is leering at her in what was definitely an unhealthy manner. 
"Dove sono" had Ms. Majeski in excellent form and completely secure and her ensemble work excelled, but it was the blending of her voice with the wonderful Ms. Oropesa (another company debut) that was simply heavenly melody in "Canzonetta sull'aria." 
When the chorus enters to give the Countess flowers the two lead girls got closer and closer to the Count and sneered right at them until two male choristers pulled them away; these were townsfolk that did not like their lord. 
The last act used the same set but 3 conical evergreens came on that moved around as the characters tried to hide behind them; this was extremely funny and actually woke me up in an act where I always seem to doze off. Ms. Oropesa was superb in her aria, but I have never seemed to be able to get through Act IV without getting spielkus (antsy pants) and indeed this was better than usual. It's not anyone's fault, surely not Mozart, just that by 3+ hours (this runs 3-15min total with break) I'm ready to go home. 
That said, I am excited about seeing it again in the stadium tonight and then the young artist performance on October 1. 



ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC 


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