Mozart’s ‘Figaro’ a welcome return to S.F. Opera

Mozart’s 1786 “The Marriage of Figaro,” a masterpiece of musical theater universally  known for its perfect blend of drama, comedy and music, is unsurprisingly appealing in San Francisco Opera’s seventh revival of a 1982 Zack Brown production.

Robin Guarino’s lively stage direction injects new vitality into the opera, which opened Sunday at the War Memorial Opera House showcasing unusually young singers with pleasant, lyrical voices.

For most of the opening performance, conductor Patrick Summers  (one of the many locally launched Merola Program alumni in this production) was frequently ahead of the singers, pulling them (rather than accompanying them) when leading the orchestra and when playing the fortepiano for recitatives. For the majority of the evening, the music rolled along merrily, although there were moments when Summers took a slower-than-usual tempo.

Both “Marriage” and Rossini’s 1816 “The Barber of Seville” – a prequel to “Marriage” – are based on Pierre Beaumarchais’ 18th-century plays about a clever character named Figaro, but the time elapsing between the two stories brought big changes.

In “Barber of Seville,” Rosina was courted by Count Almaviva, with Figaro’s help. In “Marriage,” she has become the Countess (Nadine Sierra) who is married to, and neglected by, Almaviva (Luca Pisaroni), who is scheming to bed anyone else, especially Susanna (Lisette Oropesa).

Mozart’s Figaro (Philippe Sly) is now pitched against Almaviva (Luca Pisaroni) because he wants to marry Susanna without Almaviva exercising his feudal “right to the first night.”

Mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey is quite believable in the trouser role, young courtier-officer Cherubino, who pretends to be a girl in an attempt to catch the count at one of his escapades.

Singing from the heart, the entire ensemble was at its thespian best. Bass-baritones Sly and Pisaroni, both tall and handsome, engaged in convincing combat, and sopranos Sierra and Oropesa were beauteous and appealing.

Performers in secondary comic roles – John del Carlo as Bartolo, Catherine Cook as Marcellina and Greg Fedderly as Basilio – were excellent.

REVIEW
The Marriage of Figaro
Presented by San Francisco Opera
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. June 18, June 25, June 27, June 29, July 3 and July 5; 2 p.m. June 21
Tickets: $25 to $380
Contact:  (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com

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