By Helen Patterson
“The Marriage of Figaro” is possibly one of Mozart’s best-known comic operas. The work is based on the second play in a trilogy by French playwright Beaumarchais. It is set on the wedding day of Figaro (Seth Carico) and Susanna (Ava Pine) at the palatial estate of the powerful nobleman, Count Almaviva (Alexander Elliott).
This year, the Tulsa Opera opened its 2013–14 season, themed “Love, Lust and Religion,” with Mozart’s classic on October 18 and 20. The show was sung in Italian, but English supertitles were projected above the stage, making it easy to follow the story.
The Count has lately neglected his wife, the Countess (Eleni Calenos), and started chasing after her beautiful chambermaid, Susanna. His valet, Figaro, the Countess, Susanna and the amorous page, Cherubino (Lauren McNeese) spend most of the opera plotting against the Count, trying to find ways to expose his philandering and ridicule him.
The Count, partially aware of their plots and suspicious of his own wife, enlists the help of Marcellina (Linda Roark-Strummer), Dr. Bartolo (Peter Strummer) and Don Basilio (Marc Schapman). After an exciting blend of intrigue, seduction, jealousy, love and mistaken identity, the work ends with the Count humbly asking for forgiveness, and the rejoicing of four (more-or-less) happy couples.
With comedic operas, staging and acting are crucial to carrying the show, especially for a longer production such as “The Marriage of Figaro.” Fortunately, the staging was excellent, and the actors were adroit, intimately interacting not only with each other, but also with their environment, standing on chairs and even throwing things in fits of rage. Particularly outstanding was McNeese’s Cherubino, whose exaggerated display of youthful affection and boyish sulking were comedic highlights.
The singing was exquisite. One of the more impressive voices was that of Calenos as the Countess. Her tone was rich and beautiful, and she maintained a consistent vibrato and clarity throughout her range. Her projection was excellent, and her voice could always be discerned over the orchestra.
There were a few minor problems with the production. The set change between the first and second acts was overly long, and the audience became a little restless. There were also some problems with sound levels. It can be difficult for a singer to project over a full orchestra, and unfortunately, it was occasionally hard to hear the performers in their middle registers, particularly Pine, whose Susanna had a very light voice.
The Tulsa Opera is putting on two more productions in the Spring, “Elmer Gantry” by Robert Aldridge on February 28and March 2, and “Carmen” by Bizet May 2and 4. Each of the three shows are a part of the opera’s aptly titled “Love, Lust and Religion” season.
The opera is located at 16th and Boulder, just a short drive from campus. Student rush tickets (a limited number of tickets made available the day of the performance) are $16 with a current student ID.