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Comic Relief

San Francisco
War Memorial Opera House
10/10/2010 -  & October 16, 22*, 2010
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
Kostas Smoriginas (Figaro), Heidi Stober (Susanna), Dale Travis (Dr. Bartolo), Catherine Cook (Marcellina), Michèle Losier (Cherubino), Trevor Scheunemann (Count Almaviva), Greg Fedderly (Don Basilio), Ellie Dehn (Countess Almaviva), Bojan Kneževiċ (Antonio), Sara Gartland (Barbarina), Robert MacNeil (Don Curzio)
San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Ian Robertson (Chorus Director), Nicola Luisotti (conductor & harpsichord continuo)
John Copley (director), Christopher Maravich (lighting), Lisa Anderson (stage manager), Kristi Johnson (costume supervisor), Gerd Mairandres (wig and makeup designer), Mark Burstein (production super captain)

E. Dehn (© Corey Weaver/courtesy of San Francisco Opera)

The San Francisco Opera’s October 22 performance of Le nozze di Figaro lived up to its reservations as one of the repertory's most-loved operas.
Librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte created a wonderfully comic vehicle in which both performers and audience are not only entertained but happily amused. Soprano Heidi Stober, as Susanna, continues to mature as a performer with excellent stage presence and vocal command. Figaro, portrayed in this production by bass-baritone Kostas Smoriginas, never quite convinces that his ardor for Susanna is greater than his desire to best Count Almaviva, convincingly performed by baritone Trevor Scheunemann. Vocally, Mr. Smoriginas is in excellent form; his theatrical presentation could use a little more coaching. Michèle Losier, mezzo-soprano, is a convincing Cherubino, the lovesick adolescent who is destined to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ms. Losier infused the role with enthusiasm and was one of the particular stars of this production. Soprano Ellie Dehn shone as Countess Almaviva, producing an expressiveness supported by solid vocal and dramatic technique. Dr. Bartolo and Marcellina, cast as bass Dale Travis and Catherine Cook, an accomplished mezzo-soprano, provided balanced counter-plot deviousness. Tenor Greg Fedderly has fun as the gossipy music master Don Basilio. Bass vocalist Bojan Kneževiċ is the alcoholic but nonetheless astute gardener whose daughter, Barbarina, sung by soprano Sara Gartland, helps Cherubino irk the Count. Robert MacNeil is in top form as Don Curzio, a confused judge who would rather not be troubled with the intricacies and results of extramarital dalliances.

Maestro Luisotti facilitated the raising of the orchestra pit two feet above its normal level in keeping with period performance when the orchestra traditionally was at audience level. The stage set continues to impress, having been built in 1982 in the Company's workshop, originally designed by Zack Brown, who was inspired by Francisco Goya. Stage lighting is often only noticed when it is not up to standard; in this case, one felt the jewel-like setting which helps to endear this opera to so many.

A fine performance by the Company and one which should make Mr. Copley, awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal marking his director's 30th engagement for this production, extremely proud.

Claudia K. Nichols



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