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Mozart returns to Cooperstown

The Alice Busch Opera Theatre
07/17/2010 -  and July 20, 22, 24, 27, 30*, August 2, 6, 9, 15, 20, 22
Wolgang Amadeus Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
Patrick Carfizzi (Figaro), Lyubov Petrova (Susanna), Aurhelia Varak (Cherubino), Caitlin Lynch (Countess Almaviva), Mark Schnaible (Count Almaviva), Adam Fry (Bartolo), Courtney McKeown (Marcellina), Alex Mansoori (Basilio), Robert Kerr*/Joseph Barron (Antonio), Steven Brennflick (Don Curzio), Haeran Hong (Barbarina), Marie-Eve Munger, Cathleen Candia (Bridesmaids)
Glimmerglass Opera Chorus, Bonnie Koester (Chorus Master), Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra, David Angus (Conductor)
Leon Major (Director), Donald Eastman (Sets), Matthew Pachtman (Costumes), Jeff Harris (Lighting)

M. Schnaible & L. Petrova (© Claire McAdams/Glimmerglass Opera)

Glimmerglass’s Le Nozze di Figaro offers a remarkably clear picture of the relationships between the various characters of Mozart’s perhaps too-well-known work, not to mention deft handling of the various scenes where it is crucial for the audience to be aware of which character knows what and when.

Director Leon Major was praised for taut, involving direction of opera back in his hometown, Toronto - in 1961 (An updated production of I Pagliacci was the project then.) Almost fifty years later the same virtues are happily evident.

The action is updated to the early years of the twentieth century, the most recent period in which the class relationships of the 18th century (so central to the plot) could have still been a force to reckon with. The result is a late Victorian/Edwardian atmosphere - for example, Aurhelia Varak as Cherubino, seems an animated Algernon Moncrieff.

Faced with much the same financial stringency as other arts organizations, this year the festival has had all four productions designed by Donald Eastman using a set from the 2005 production of Death in Venice. It is interesting to see how the same scenic elements can be effectively modified for four contrasting productions. If any production can be said to suffer as a result, it might be this one. The Almaviva property is portrayed as something less than deluxe (not unusual in presentations of this work). However a greater degree of visual crispness or panache would be welcome.

The cast is well chosen with the right voices and physiques du rôle.

Mark Schnaible (in a welcome return after his 2008 performance in the revelatory production of Das Liebesverbot) is a commanding presence as Count Almaviva. Patrick Carfizzi is a characterful Figaro. He has his own way of modulating lines with contrast in volume; this can be surprising but not in a bad way.

Lyubov Petrova is an urgent Susanna. Caitlin Lynch’s Countess is well-sung and acted although her voice misses some of the qualities we expect from the role - an introspective character perhaps.

Seven members of the Glimmerglass Young American Artists Program take on comprimario roles. Outstanding among them is Haeran Hong’s Barberina - Ms Hong is a small person with big personality and a surprisingly strong voice.

The production overflows with good qualities, yet the overall impression is of a very competent but still routine production that somehow misses true festival quality.

Michael Johnson



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