Opera San José's Le Nozze di Figaro
September 12, 2022
* Notes *
Le nozze di Figaro (Efraín Solís as Figaro and Maya Kherani as Susanna in Act IV pictured, photograph by David Allen) opened at Opera San José last weekend with a joyous and very human production set in colonial India.
I was skeptical about moving this piece from Seville to South Asia, as a person with multiple marginalized identities, I'm always wary of using other cultures for some exotic flair. But it definitely worked well, and Mozart's work was more alive than ever, and felt like it could belong to anyone.
It was great that there were many opportunities for the South Asian diaspora in this production and not just the singers. I was happy to see that choreographer Antara Bhardwaj was a cultural consultant as was the costume designer Deepsikha Chatterjee. The stage looked gorgeous, as did the clothing, and it was great to see Bhardwaj dancing in a quartet, the geometric lines were very lovely. Director Brad Dalton seemed to have everyone on the same page, it was impressive that not only the trained dancers but the whole cast was able to move so nicely (pictured, photograph by David Allen).
Conductor Viswa Subbaraman kept the orchestra going at a frenetic pace, occasionally going off the rails but certainly never a dull moment. The singers were most wonderful, however. Even silly Don Basilio -- tenor Zhengyi Bai -- was sung with absolute delight and beauty. Soprano Melissa Sondhi was an adorable Barbarina, and gave an effortless performance of "L'ho perduta... me meschina." Mezzo-soprano Deepa Johnny was likewise sweet as Cherubino, her first aria, "Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio" perfectly fluttery and light and her second ("Voi che sapete che cosa è amor") simply lovely. She was one of the tallest people on stage so the jokes about Cherubino's size were all the funnier.
Soprano Maria Natale was convincing as the Countess, her notes have a brass-like quality that is distinctive. As the Count, baritone Eugene Brancoveanu's sound is more rounded and warm, he's suitably puffed up but not a buffoon. His Act III aria "Hai già vinta la causa – Vedrò mentr'io sospiro" was moving.
This pair was a fine contrast to soprano Maya Kherani as Susanna and baritone Efraín Solís in the titular role. Kherani has a pure sound not unlike a bell and Solís is bright with textural nuances. They both have wonderful physicality and were excellent with the comic timing.
Scenic designer Steven C. Kemp's set matched the embellishments of the California Theatre itself and was very detailed and ornate. There were rather long pauses between Acts I and II and Acts III and IV, but the trade off of having such opulence seems fair.
* Tattling *
The 89-year-0ld lady next to me was very chatty and genial. She had a friend behind her and another one across the aisle but promised to behave herself, and she was quiet during the music and conscientious about letting me get around her when I needed to.
I cried during the wedding scene in Act III (pictured, photograph by David Allen) and at the end of the opera. I love this music so much and it was nice to feel like the people who put this opera on were making space for people like me.