What did you think of THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO?

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I attended closing night on

I attended closing night on Saturday. The singing was phenomenal - world class. Some of the best I've heard in Portland or elsewhere. I thought David Pittsinger particularly stood out as Almaviva, but all of the leads were very strong. I am so pleased that the Portland Opera is bringing these singers to Portland!

The musical direction was also excellent. I was pleased to hear the Mozart tempi handled so well - quick, but with enough flexibility to really bring out the strengths in the lovely voices on the stage. There were a number of surprising and beautiful musical moments. The range of moods this ensemble was able to effectively project was very impressive.

The staging had issues. The bed theme lent itself to cheap jokes - some were even rather distasteful - and got boring and monotonous pretty quickly. When the curtain rose on the "pine grove," I was dismayed to see that we would have yet *another* scene staged largely on and around the bed. This vague sense of foreboding turned out to be justified when it became clear that "Deh vieni, non tardar" had been reduced to a mild striptease (this made no sense anyway, because when the Count entered, a wedding dress and veil were already scattered all over the floor, and the Countess was wearing a duplicate set - a little suspicious, methinks!!). And although Jennifer Aylmer's voice was extraordinarily lovely throughout, I am convinced that the final notes of Deh vieni would have been stronger had her voice not been slightly muffled because her head was on a large, fluffy pillow.

The bed theme also tended to emphasize the physical aspect of *all* of the relationships. This took away from the fact that Figaro and Susanna's relationship is a meeting of two great minds as well, in contrast with the Count's purely physical approach. As the program noted, this story has definite undertones of female empowerment, which would suggest that a woman is much more than just her body. In this respect, having Figaro and Susanna spend so much time hopping on and off the bed and disrobing made the storytelling less effective. In much the same way, having the Countess jump in bed with Cherubino also takes away from an effective contrast between her and the unfaithful-and-lying-about-it Count, and thus from the overall story arc. Looking at infidelity as a sort of game is not consistent with the Countess character, even taking into account the third play in the Beaumarchais trilogy.

However, some aspects of the staging were quite well done. I really liked the lanterns in Act 4 and the chess board feel of the floor. The curtained backgrounds and costumes gave the production a cool French chateau vibe. Overall the action was pleasantly lively (Act 2 was especially fast and funny), and the hiding scenes were hilarious. The acting was consistently convincing - credit for this has to go to excellent casting, as well as to Stephen Lawless, the stage director.

The surtitles were generally succesful in making the story understandable to the audience, as was evident by how many laughs they got. However, they were also more sparse than I've seen before. It was very unfortunate that they didn't catch the "Si" and "No" interplay in "Crudel, perché finora" (which, with Pittsinger and Aylmer, was musically quite a treat). I think the audience would have enjoyed the joke.

Overall, despite the issues, I enjoyed an evening of fabulous singing. And thanks to Portland Opera for putting on this traditional favorite! I love it when they do Mozart and Rossini - one reason is that I enjoy it myself; another is that I can bring friends with me and trust they will hear great music and have a good time, whether they are already opera fans or not.

I saw Figaro on Saturday

I saw Figaro on Saturday night and I have to say it was the best staged version of the opera I've ever seen. The stage director, and the humor and humanity he found in the libretto, was 1st rate. What a true pleasure it was to see a well known opera with surprises and new and enlightening ways of telling the story. The directors approach to the piece really allowed each character to more fully develop their characters. You could tell the cast loved being in the production and their stage presence and humor were just great.

Even small details like Susanna polishing the bedpost then the same bit being repeated by the Countess when she was playing Susanna in the 4th act. But, the one bit that actually made me laugh the most was the scene between Figaro and his new found mother. She didn't realize he was speaking to her for a moment. Absolute perfection in comic timing and such a great enhancement to her character. It's a part of the opera that normally just goes by with no impact. Terrific!

The singing was great all around, but special appreciation for the singing of Pamela Armstrong is a must for me. What a wonderful voice and characterization of the Countess. This is a major singer that I hope to hear much more from in the near future. And, I must say not only did Jennifer Holloway do a great job with Cherubino as a singer, it was the first pants role I ever seen in any opera where I kept forgetting he/she wasn't a boy. Great acting, costuming and makeup on her part!

Congratulations Portland Opera on a 1st rate Figaro! I can't wait for the rest of the season.

Edward Segel's picture

A fine production - I saw it

A fine production - I saw it on Sat. night the 12th. But one complaint about the translation in the surtitles: In the final scene, the Count repeats many "Nos!" to the requests for pardon for the (fake) Countess. Then, when the real Countess appears, in turn he begs for pardon. In this production, the Countess replies, "I forgive you." Much better to have used the original language of the libretto: "I am kinder [docile] than you - and I say yes" [e dico di si]. This would give the no/yes interplay that seems important to Mozart (as also in Don Giovanni).

Figaro was wonderfully done.

Figaro was wonderfully done. It is rare to see singers so well matched for those big ensemble numbers. Kudoos!

On a different subject, Andre Chiang was top notch at his recital Tuesday night at the art museum. His stage presence even in so restricted environment as a solo recital was captivating and added greatly to the music.

Mr. Ainsley's lecture was excellent but too long. The part about the difference between classical and romantic style was a digression. And the Schumann lecture was longer than the song cycle.

Being an opera novice and

Being an opera novice and having only recently been introduced to opera the past couple of years, I can only tell you how much I enjoyed this wonderful production of The Marriage of Figaro. The music was so moving, energetic and at times very emotional, performed to the "T." Music so perfectly attuned with the vocal performers as to become one. The wonderful performances of my two favorites this evening were Cherubino & the Countess. The talented Jennifer Holloway who performed as Cherubino, as someone else mentioned made you forget that it was a woman playing the part, so masterful was her acting, all but her sublime voice gave her away. The performance by Pamela Armstrong as the Countess moved me to tears at some of her emotional vocals, so gently yet so powerful. I'll also agree that on the night my husband and I were there (the 10th), the missing surtitles was unfortunate. Bravo to the entire cast, just a magical night at the opera for us.

Never have I seen as fine an

Never have I seen as fine an ensemble in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO as I saw tonight (November 10th). The cast was oustanding--all five principals were exceptionally strong. Someone mentioned above about the terrific Jennifer Holloway, who embodied the adolescent Cherubino about as organically perfect as I've ever seen and this includes the very great Frederica von Stade whom I heard sing Cherubino throughout her long and storied Met career. Pamela Armstrong's superbly sung Countess is in the same class as Steber, Te Kanawa, and Fleming--the top is especially glowing (those top As in "dove sono," were gorgeous) and her acting was touching David Pittsinger was about as aristocratic a Count as one could possibly be. He is tall and and looks the part of a nobleman to a tee. He never overplayed or reacted with too much. He knows a lifted eyebrow or a carefully studied stance can wring laughs or horror at the Count's louche behavior. He's also got a fine bass baritone, particularly when he sings softly. You couldn't ask for a livelier or more endearing Figaro and Susanna than Daniel Mobbs and Jennifer Aylmer (more than once, she reminded me of Ileana Cotrubas in this role).

Loved Ari Pelto's fleet tempi, especially in a note complete performance. For once, the fourth act didn't drag. A fine group of comprimarios rounded out the cast. The sets were outstanding. I like the men's costumes. Only the female costumes disappointed--they were not very appealing, especially the Countess's dowdy dress for Act III and IV.

Still this was a pretty perfect evening. Congratulations for pulling it off.

Calonlan's picture

THANKS to Chris Mattalliano

THANKS to Chris Mattalliano for his outstanding leadership of Portland Opera - "Marriage" was a glowing evening of magic - the entire ensemble was superb, and, the singing wonderful, and truly Mozartian - and that is saying a lot - Much could be said of each performance, however, having seen dozens of productions of this work, and having sung it myself in years gone by, there was one performance which stood out for me - Cherubino - Trouser roles are commonly performed with an exaggerated swagger and clumsiness that is supposed to emulate someone's notion of "boy" - this performance was attended by my son who is not familiar with this aspect of opera, and found himself really astonished when a female voice emerged from Cherubino - this performance was wholly convincing without being grotesque - the real grace common to adolescent boys was present without seeming feminine - this is a genuine high accomplishment, and, clearly, whether by her own study, or the guidance of the director, our Cheubino was completely convincing - a rare achievement - this in no way diminishes the performance of the other performers, rather, for the first time in my memory, the entire performance (in no small measure because theCherubino role integrated perfectly) moved with the smoothness and theatricality I think Mozart envisioned - Brava, Brava Portland Opera!

I too noticed the exceptional

I too noticed the exceptional Cherubino and never thought of her as a woman until she sang and then it just seemed like she was a counter-tenor rather than a mezzo--so convincing was her physical embodiment of this adolescent character. You really described Ms. Holloway's performance perfectly.

laura's picture

We thorougly enjoyed the

We thorougly enjoyed the performance on Nov. 6. Great singing, costumes and staging. The surtitles, yes, at times were blank when perhaps a sentence was needed. And Mozart's music is ethereal.

For the most part, it was a

For the most part, it was a wonderful production of probably the best opera in the repertoire. However the young man singing "Figaro" could use a stronger, richer voice; it was difficult to hear him at times. Possibly the acoustics of the Keller contributed to this. Aside from that comment, my experience was entirely enjoyable in every way; wonderful singing, great acting, lovely sets. Thanks! Paula Chernoff

I was in attendance on Sunday

I was in attendance on Sunday and was very pleased with the performace. The singing was terrific, the orchestra was wonderful and the staging was as good. I agree the lighting was a bit distracting at times but not too bad. Bravo!

I thought the opera, The

I thought the opera, The Marriage of Figaro, was excellent!! The only think I didn't like were the bright lights in almost the last scene. I have a seizure disorder & according to my sister (who was with me) I had a slight problem toward the end of the show. (I wouldn't have known except that apparently during this "problem" I had put my program in my purse, which I didn't realize until we were getting up to leave & I was looking for it.) Otherwise...magnifico!!

I agree about the surtitles.

I agree about the surtitles. But the production overall was terrific! Great singing and performing. One of the best I've seen at the Portland Opera.

My husband and I greatly

My husband and I greatly enjoyed the performance last night (the 4th). The singing was terrific, as was the staging and costumes. I did find the lighting distracting at times. I wasn't always sure of the reason for the change in the intensity of the light. And as a small criticism, my husband and I agreed that the surtitles were not consistently well done throughout the performance.