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Exhilirating Mozart

Santa Fe
Santa Fe Opera
06/29/2013 -  & July 5, 10, August 3, 8*, 13, 20, 23, 2013
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492
Zachary Nelson (Figaro), Lisette Oropesa (Susanna), Dale Travis (Bartolo), Susanne mentzer (Marcellina), Emily Fons (Cherubino), Daniel Okulitch (Count Almaviva), Keith Jameson (Basilio), Susanna Phillips (Countess Almaviva), Adam Lau (Antonio), Jonathan Winell (Don Curzio), Rachel Hall (Barbarina)
The Santa Fe Opera Chorus, Susanne Sheston (chorus master), The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, John Nelson (conductor)
Jonathan Kent (producer), Bruce Donnell (director), Paul Brown (set and costume designer), Duane Schuler (lighting designer)

(© Ken Howard)

A production of Mozart's frequently performed satirical masterpiece always runs the risk of falling into the banal. The story is so well known that the gestures, jokes and gags almost become predictable. And its idiom is so grounded in Old Regime Europe that it is a terrific challenge to change its setting to any other time or place. Good performances of Figaro must therefore rely on energy and drive, and in this Santa Fe has succeeded brilliantly.

Figaro is fundamentally an ensemble piece. Assembling a fine young cast to meet the opera's challenge is hardly easy. But with the company's apprentice program producing world class results, the burden was considerably lightened. Baritone Zachary Nelson was an apprentice just last year but as this year's Figaro he is already emerging as an accomplished Mozartean, gifted in drama as well as in music. Paired with rising soprano Lisette Oropesa's Susanna, who makes her Santa Fe debut in this production, the opera's servant duo was trouble in the best possible way.

The more aristocratic couple faces demands of restraint that can turn the characters into boring caricatures, but this was not the case. Soprano Susanna Phillips, another past apprentice here, brought chrystaline clarity to the role of Countess Almaviva. Her arias "Porgi, amor" and "Dove sono" were the musical heights of the evening. Daniel Okulitch was a fine foil and in superb vocal form as her wayward husband.

The supporting cast featured some fine contributions as well. Apprentice program alumna Emily Fons sang a chirpy Cherubino. Veteran Susanne Mentzer was an appealing Marcellina. Adam Lau's Antonio stole the character's scenes.

Jonathan Kent's production adapts the Santa Fe environment, visible through stage rear, by placing the rococo stylings of the Almaviva atop a field of wild flowers that could have been plucked from the sage. Paul Brown's sets and costumes are very much of the opera's traditional era, but a wall that slides from stage left to stage right allows for quick scene changes and dynamic action.

John Nelson's superb conducting charged the performance with nonstop adrenaline that we should hear more of in Mozart.

Paul du Quenoy



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