LA Opera's Le nozze di Figaro
February 24, 2023
* Notes *
Los Angeles Opera is nearly done with a run of a new Le nozze di Figaro, with a final performance this Sunday. The charming co-production with Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Opéra national de Lorraine, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, and Opéra de Lausanne features a ladder into the orchestra pit and ramps on either side of the stage so that many entrances and exits happen right next to the audience.
The staging, directed by James Gray, has a great immediacy to it, the physicality of all the singers is impressive, everyone was very believable in their roles. The singing was especially good in the ensembles and I like how distinct the voices were. Last night's performance was the first opera I've gone to outside of the Bay Area since 2019, and I questioned myself why I was there until Maestro James Conlon started up the overture. It was so lovely to hear this music played by a fine orchestra, there were some breathtaking tempi but everything seemed well in hand and controlled too.
Soprano Janai Brugger is a sweet sounding Susanna, her voice is warm and round. Her face and body are both expressive, she did a rather lot of hitting, especially of Figaro when he pretends he thinks she is the Countess. Soprano Ana María Martínez (Countess) is the perfect contrast to Brugger, with an icy, incisive tone that is unmistakable. She has the appropriate gravity for this role and while her "Dove sono" wasn't the most beautiful I've heard, it was very moving.
Bass-baritone Craig Colclough is winsome as Figaro, his voice has power and grit. His Act IV "Aprite un po' quegli occhi" was heartfelt. Baritone Lucas Meachem did well, his smooth, strong sound suited the Count and it was hilarious when he tried using a crowbar to open the Countess' closet in Act II. He looked so uncomfortable and inept, the staging was really done perfectly. I was shocked when Meachem tried to hit Cherubino with a bottle in Act IV but struck Figaro instead, shattering glass on the stage. It was funny when he gingerly threw the neck of the bottle into some plants.
Mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb is a wonderfully breathless Cherubino, terribly in love with love. Chaieb has an especially good physical presence, boyishly imitating the Count and committing fully to the various sight gags she was assigned. It was amusing to see that the Barbarina here was the Cherubino up at Opera San José last fall, mezzo-soprano Deepa Johnny. Her full, pretty sound is resonant, and she sang her mournful "L'ho perduta, me meschina" was touching. She didn't seem to have any problems singing the role, even though it is normally cast with a soprano.
Soprano Marie McLaughlin made for an almost over-the-top Marcellina, and got a lot of laughs, as did the flamboyant Don Basilio played by tenor Rodell Aure Rosel. He missed most of Act III, as the Count doesn't let him make an entrance at the beginning. It was a good way to make the transition to Act IV, Basilio comes back onstage and realizes the festivities are over, which gives the audience a bit of narrative to watch as the set is changed. Bass Kristinn Sigmundsson was also amusing as Dr. Bartolo.
* Tattling *
I got an aisle seat in the first row of the Dorothy Chandler, so I was right at one of the ramps onto the stage. Everyone around me was very quiet and I did not hear any talking or electronic noise near me. I was glad that the person behind me asked if I would deal with my unruly puffer coat before the music started, it really did impinge on his personal space and I need to remember to fold it away properly next time.
Just before the second half started, a man realized he had come in the wrong door and ran up a ramp and across the stage to get to his seat. He got light applause for this feat and the staff seemed concerned he might have gone backstage.