Le Nozze di Figaro, opera buffa in four acts, sung in Italian
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, after the play La Folle Journée, ou Le Marriage de Figaro by Beaumarchais
First performance May 1, 1786, Burgtheater, Vienna, Austria
An Opera Carolina production, on 4/21/2018, at the Belk Theater in Charlotte, NC, USA (third and last performance of the run)
The Charlotte Symphony conducted by Robert Moody
The Opera Carolina Chorus
Stage Director Barnett Bruce
Video & Lighting Design Michael Baumgarten
Set Design Brian Perchaluk
Costume Design A.T. Jones
Harpsichordist Emily Jarrell Urbanek
Wig & Make-up Design Martha Ruskai
Count Almaviva – Carsten Wittmoser
Figaro – Joseph Barron
Rosina (Countess Almaviva) – Melinda Whittington
Susanna – Raffaella di Caprio
Cherubino – Magda Gartner
Pre-opera mini-lecture by Luiz Gazzola from Opera Lively
Dr. Bartolo – Eric Jordan
Marcellina – Diane Schoff
Antonio – Donald Hartmann
Barbarina – Kate Edahl
Don Basilio – Robert Mack
Don Curzio – Johnathan White
First Handmaiden – Sarah Jones
Second Handmaiden – Sarah Parker
It is always a pleasure to attend a good performance of this extraordinary opera, and there was a lot to like in this show.
The sets and projections were visually appealing and very functional – see-through simulations of walls and doors, a staircase, a catwalk, a large screen on the back with projections of the surroundings of the Count’s mansion. The projection image for Act I wasn’t that compelling, but the ones for Acts II, III, and IV worked great. Overall, B+.
Blocking was a bit confusing when the entire chorus was on stage, and an attempt at dancing had people literally bumping into each other; but when only the singers were present, the stage space was well utilized. B-.
The orchestra simulated a delicate Mozart ensemble quite well, and played with elegance. Maestro Moody (from the Winston-Salem Symphony) kept correct tempi and gesticulated with his hands up (no baton) to be very visible by the singers whom he was very active in conducting, thus achieving good synchrony between pit and stage. Still, a guest conductor didn’t achieve the same thrilling sounds that the titular conductor of the company, Maestro James Meena, typically gets from the excellent Charlotte Symphony. Conducting and orchestral playing, A+.
Comic flare was quite good. The public laughed extensively.
Singing was a bit uneven. Joseph Barron in the title role was secure and stable, and made no mistakes throughout the entire show. He did draw the second wildest applause after an excellent rendition of “Aprite un pò quegli occhi.” He gets a score of A-. The same can be said of Carsten Wittmoser’s Almaviva – he did well throughout the show; A- as well. Among the male singers, good surprises came from the comprimario group, with Robert Mack being a strong Don Basilio, and Donald Hartmann as usual in excellent form; one laments that his role was so small.
From the female side, Melinda Whittington had a shaky start with a “Porgi amor” that suffered from unstable pitch. That’s the Countess’ first aria, and after she warmed up, she did a lot better, drawing the loudest “Brava”s of the entire performance with a goose-bumping interpretation of “Dove sono” which was the highest point of the evening. A+.
The young Italian soprano Raffaella di Caprio was delightful. It was hard to hear her at first, but then, also upon warming up, her voice projected better. Vocally, A, and in the matter of gracious, charming acting, she upgrades to A+ (she is also very pretty and matches very well how one imagines Susanna).
I wasn’t highly impressed with Magda Gartner’s Cherubino (maybe she was indisposed). She did act well, though. (B-).
Again, the female comprimarios positively surprised us. Diane Schoff was a funny Marcellina, and Kate Edahl sang beautifully and vivaciously the small role of Barbarina.
This is not a chorus-rich opera, but when called upon, the Opera Carolina Chorus did not disappoint.
It is interesting to notice that item by item, there were a few flaws as mentioned above, but as a whole, this show really worked. It was never boring: always entertaining; the kind of show one watches with a constant smile on one’s face. Time flew, and at the end one would have wanted more. It wasn’t among Opera Carolina’s, say, top five best efforts of the last several years (those that got our maximum score of A++), but it was very honorable. Overall, A-.
Production pictures below were kindly sent to us by the Opera Carolina Press Department, credits unknown, fair promotional use. The two curtain calls pictures are by Opera Lively.
Melinda Whittington, Magda Gartner, and Raffaella di Caprio
Raffaella di Caprio, Joseph Barron, Melinda Whittington, Carsten Wittmoser, and Donald Hartmann
Carsten Wittmoser and Melinda Whittington
A fourth act scene
Curtain calls, chorus
Curtain calls, singers