Los Angeles Opera Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (Pacific Opera Project)

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by Barnaby Hughes on April 15, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

A MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN

Less than a month after its pop-up production of The Barber of Seville, Pacific Opera Project (POP) continues Beaumarchais’ trilogy with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro). Unlike that pop-production, this brief run in two successive weekends at Porticos Art Space in Pasadena and the Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica includes a full orchestra and opera chorus. What surprised me most was how little difference these additions made. Perhaps it is because the larger space more easily absorbs the greater sound or that the company’s pop-up productions are getting more and more elaborate. Whatever it is, I like the way POP continues to experiment with different types of venues and performances.

Barnaby Hughes' Stage and Cinema review of Pacific Opera Project's THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO.As with Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, which is similar both musically and stylistically, The Marriage of Figaro is an opera buffa (comic opera) and a collaboration with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. It was first performed in 1786. The entire plot of the opera takes place in a single day and culminates with the nuptials of Figaro (LeRoy Villanueva). Yet, before Figaro can marry his beloved Susanna (Katherine Giaquinto), many of his rivals seek to delay or prevent the wedding, including Count Almaviva (Daniel Scofield). Among the numerous subplots is the effort of Bartolo (E. Scott Levin) to marry Figaro to Marcellina (Julia Metzler), though Figaro discovers that Marcellina is actually his own mother and Bartolo his father. Another subplot involves Cherubino (Elizabeth Rigby Jones), a lovestruck young gallant who flirts with the Countess (Daria Somers) and later runs off with Barbarina (Ariel Downs). In true comedic fashion, all ends well with no plot thread left untied.

Barnaby Hughes' Stage and Cinema review of Pacific Opera Project's THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO.POP performs The Marriage of Figaro in its entirety, which takes about three hours, including a short intermission and two pauses between acts. This makes for a long evening, but fortunately there is never a dull moment. Even the slow scenes fail to drag, such as the Countess’ lament at the beginning of the second act, which is enlivened by Somers’ incredibly moving and lyrical singing of the aria “Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro.” In typical POP fashion, the opera’s setting has been transposed to a more familiar time and place: 1980s Miami. The homage to the film Scarface is evident in the gangster personas adopt by the male characters as well as in the costumes designed by Maggie Green. Figaro, for example, dons a well-cut pale yellow suit and open-necked lavender shirt with matching shoes.

Barnaby Hughes' Stage and Cinema review of Pacific Opera Project's THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO.A fun and fairly light-hearted show, this POP production isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as some of their previous productions. Numerous zany antics do enliven the first act, as when Cherubino hides under Susanna’s chair and the Count hides behind it (not knowing that Cherubino is there, too) and when Marcellina simulates giving oral sex to Bartolo under the bed covers. Yet there are also darker elements, such as the waving of guns and the Count’s uncontrollable anger (Scofield overdoes it on occasion). Giaquinto characteristically provides plenty of sass and sex appeal, while Somers is all emotion. Rigby Jones, in the gender-bending role of Cherubino, is noteworthy for the beauty and balance of her soprano voice. While Villanueva displays excellent technique and a knack for comic facial expressions, it is Scofield’s powerful baritone that drives the action. Levin, a POP stalwart, puts in perhaps his best performance yet.

Barnaby Hughes' Stage and Cinema review of Pacific Opera Project's THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO.Artistic director Josh Shaw and music director Stephen Karr have once again put together an entertaining, accessible and affordable operatic production. It is impressive in its scale, sometimes putting more than twenty talented singers on the stage with multiple and complex set changes. A comic and musical delight, Pacific Opera Project’s production of The Marriage of Figaro does full justice to Mozart’s genius. Stay tuned for their September production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado.

Barnaby Hughes' Stage and Cinema review of Pacific Opera Project's THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO.photos by Mik Milman

The Marriage of Figaro
Pacific Opera Project
April 12-14, 2013
Porticos Art Space in Pasadena
April 19-21, 2013
Miles Memorial Playhouse in Santa Monica

for tickets, call (323) 739-6122
or visit http://www.pacificoperaproject.com/

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