Mount Vernon, WA (McIntyre Hall) – Skagit Opera presented Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro February 23 to March 4, 2007. I attended the second weekend Friday performance.
I have had many people ask me what I thought of the performance. Maybe in part they think I have an extra edge in reviewing the finer details of the performance and am able to critique with some artistocratic snobbery. When I attend a concert I get lost in the performance if it’s done well, I don’t burden myself with trying to analyze the technical details. It’s only when something is not quite right that I begin to analyze what the source is. On this production of The Marriage of Figaro I was able to fully engage in the show, because there just wasn’t anything glaring that was wrong. It was all around wonderful.
I can describe Skagit Opera’s presentation in one word: FLAWLESS. It was truly incredible. No show is actually flawless, but as an audience member it was an incredible experience. When I blog about local shows I make it a point to not bring up any negative points. If I have something negative to say about a local production I keep it to myself. I want to support local arts, not tear it down. I can tell you that this is the first presentation in Skagit County where I have nothing negative to say, there is nothing I am omitting. Skagit Opera has established themselves as the real deal with lightning speed.
I was a little bummed I didn’t get to go to the pre-lecture on opening night, so it was a great bonus when Erich Parce came out at the beginning of the opera and explained many of the opera plot twists and turns. The plot does get a little complicated and his pre-show synopsis helped keep us all on the same page.
Photos by Gary Brown are available from StageImages.com
Skagit Opera chose to do this opera in English – and I saw they are currently asking for audience feedback on whether to keep the operas in English or perform them in the original language. The choices are apparent – have a show that is easily digested by modern concertgoers, or retain the beauty of the original phrasing and language as the composer intended. For my vote I’m torn on that. I love to hear the original language, to know what I am hearing is authentic. Yet as an audience member, it’s a nice change to just be able to just sit back and be entertained – to digest the opera easily as a show. I never thought I would say this – but I think I enjoy the English shows more. At least then we all know exactly when to laugh. When you hear an opera in a foreign language that’s the point when you can tell who knows the opera and who doesn’t – the people IN THE KNOW realize the exact points where they are supposed to laugh.
Dean Williamson conducted a tight, fast paced show. For as long as this opera is the orchestra and cast kept pretty tight throughout. I could always hear the vocals well over the music thanks to very subtle sound reinforcement by Jerry Fortier. Jerry’s approach is to enhance the sound just below the threshold of noticing that it’s happening. He does this transparently and does it exceedingly well with the Opera shows. The string section was nice and full thanks to Sharyn Peterson’s leadership. In other shows I have usually heard at least one instrument grossly out of tune, there was none of that in this show. Intonation with the orchestra was excellent. I was talking with a friend about this show’s orchestra and they said, “I KNOW, IT SOUNDED LIKE A BROADWAY PIT BAND!” – and I know they meant that as a high compliment to the tightness of this show’s musicians.
Acting was incredible in this Marriage of Figaro. They characters were so animated, and used their acting skills to the hilt in propelling the plot forward. Any subtle elements of the plot that may have been confusing, the actors clarified with their acting. It was like watching professional actors who also happened to sing, whereas with opera you often find great singers that leave a little to be desired in their acting. Not the case here.
Jenny Knapp was an audience favorite in her portrayal of Cherubino. It is such a funloving role, and it’s hard to imagine anyone could play it with such pixy frivolity as she did. She could have pulled it off on acting alone, but her voice was also solid as a rock and hypnotizing in the lower registers.
Matthew Hayward as The Count. I have seen him in other roles where he was the Hero, and it was fun to watch him play the villian. He made us despise him as the count just as much as he made us love him as the Hero. I’d be interested to see his career unfold and the wide variety of roles he will be able to command.
Matthew Curran (Figaro) and Jessica Milanese (Susannah) worked so well as a team with their interactive acting that I wonder if they’ve done this role pairing together before. In particular these two were champions of expressing each turn of the plot with their acting as well as vocally. One of the reasons their acting was so apparent is because you didn’t have to strain to understand their words, and they didn’t make your gut tense up when they went for the high notes. They made it appear effortless so the audience could just get lost in the plot and action. If either Matthew or Jessica happen to read this post I would be interested to know if you’ve worked as a pair before, or if you’ve done these roles before. I’m guessing you have both done these roles before, and give it a 40% chance you’ve also worked as a pair before. It was awesome!
Set design was top notch. I don’t know if the “dancing trees” are considered props or set, but they were very fun in the closing acts too. It is always amazing to me when comedy from several hundred years ago is still funny today – side-splitting funny at that!
Ok, enough gushing over how fantastic Skagit Opera is. I really need to find something wrong with them that I can critique or people will start thinking I’m a shill hired by them to give flawless reviews. SKAGIT OPERA ROCKS!!!
Skagit Opera presents
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Original Italian libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
English libretto by Ruth and Thomas Martin
Premiere: the Burgtheater, Vienna, May 1, 1786
Performed now at McIntyre Hall, Mount Vernon, WA
February 23, 25 and March 2, 4 – 2007
Figaro – Matthew Curran
The Count – Matthew Hayward
Cherubino – Jenny Knapp
Susannah – Jessica Milanese
The Countess – Mieke Rickert
Marcellina – Ellen McLain
Antonio – Daniel Oakden
Barbarina – Megan Chenovick
Don Basilio – Darrell Born
Doctor Bartolo – Ron Wohl
Don Curzio – Scott Rittenhouse
Conductor – Dean Williamson
Stage Director – Erich Parce
Costumer – Carl Bronsdon
Costume Coordinator – Lynne Rittenhouse
Set – Seattle Opera
Set Designer – Curtis Wallin
Hair and Makeup – Mary Bingham
Technical Director – Bruce Weech
Stage Manager – Rebecca Heilig
Accompanists – Glenda Williams, Rhonda Kline, Andres Pelaez, Christina Siemens, Lynne Rittenhouse
Chorus Director – David Cross
Chorus Coordinator – Lynne Rheinhardt
General Director – Ron Wohl
Light Design – Steven Craig
Sound Engineer – Jerry Fortier
Light Operator – Don Willcuts
Fly Captain – Dave Mumford
Stage Crew – Damien Rocco, Quentin Griffith, Josh Herrin, Nate Young
Follow Spot – Cameron Craig, Steve Fisher
Publicity – Bill Arnett, Ellie Slabodnik, Nancy Peterson
Program – Ron Wohl
Photography – Eric Hall, Gary Brown
Lobby Display – Robert Slabodnik
Special thanks to Talisman Productions
STARRY NIGHT ORCHESTRA
1st Violins – Sharyn Peterson, Danae Otterness, Andrea Talley, George Huang
2nd Violins – Christine Wilkinson, Jessica Marshall
Violas – Rachel McGuire, Natalie Muri, Morgan Schwab
Celli – Matthew Rehfeldt, David Jones
Bass – Thomas Mayes
Percussion – Mary-Ellen Hodges
Flute 1 – Kimberly Breilein
Flute 2 – Lindsey Peterson
Harpsichord – Andres Pelaez
Oboe 1 – Jonathan Peterson
Oboe 2 – Jennifer Weeks, Kristen Gillig
Clarinet 1 – Eugene Zoro
Clarinet 2 – Kimberly Fay
Bassoon 1 – Pat Nelson
Bassoon 2 – David Strangland
Horn 1 – Robin Strangland
Horn 2 – Beverly Soler
Trumpet 1 – Malcolm Peterson
Trumpet 2 – Kipp Otterness
Sopranos – Lynne Rheinhardt, Ariane Brandt, Beverly Pearson, Carrie Denny
Altos – Ginny Ramey, Dani Keller, LuAnne Hargis
Basses – Gary Ramey, Dave Cross, Rod Brandt, Eric Hall
Children – Colin Rittenhouse, Paige Rittenhouse, Zoe Slabodnik, Aya Ochiai
Susannah – Megan Chenovick
Figaro – Jonathan Silvia
Antonio – Erich Parce
Barbarina – Ava Trenga-Schein
Countess – Kathy Roche-Zujko
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO – NOTES
Le nozze di Figaro ossia la folle giornata (Trans: The Marriage [literal, Wedding] of Figaro or the Day of Madness), K. 492, is an opera buffa (comic opera) composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, Le mariage de Figaro (1784). Although the play by Beaumarchais was at first banned in Vienna because it satirizes the aristocracy, the opera became one of Mozart’s most successful works. It is now regarded as a cornerstone of the standard operatic repertoire, and Opera America claims it to be the sixth most performed opera in North America. The overture is especially famous and is often played as a concert piece. The contemporary English translation is by Ruth and Thomas Martin.