Over the weekend, I finally had a chance to see Mozart's Marriage of Figaro at the Lyric. For the first time. Finally. Opera is a great way to experience Mozart: his simple forms and lyrical melodies help create a perfect balance between music and plot. But, his operas have become so standard that it's almost hard to get excited about a new production. They've been around forever and will endure for a long time to come./
But, to quote the immortal words of The Doors, "the time to hesitate is through." See it now; this production is amazing. I'm not usually one to like comedic operas, "buffa"-- [because I like to think I have a sophisticated sense of humor]--but this production at the Lyric made me EL OH EL. The libretto is already stuffed with puns and terrifically awkward situations, but these singers bring it to life.
Danielle De Niese, as the maid Susanna, is a lot of fun to watch and yet sounds beautiful too. Her facial expressions and body language sell her character's awkward situations in equal proportion to the words she is singing. Kyle Ketelsen plays Figaro, her eventual husband. He has moments of physical genius but his real strength is his smooth baritone voice. Mariusz Kwiecien as Count Almaviva ends up being the butt of the whole joke but plays his part with the utmost dignity. His wife, La Contessa, is played by Anne Schwanewilms, a legend-in-the-making soprano. She gets most of the technically-difficult coloratura passages and makes them seem easy--except for a few moments when she succumbed to a bronchial infection. But what's most impressive is how the leads come together to form a team--like George, Elaine, Jerry and Kramer but with more sexual tension.
So in spite of my prejudice, this was one of my favorite opera experiences this year. It's a light and fun, like "As You Like It" but set to music. I took my mom to the performance because she had never seen an opera of any kind before. Even after 3+ hours, she said it was a lot of fun and easy to follow--a great introduction to opera. After all, it's a classic.
Here's the overture, which you will recognize. Now you know from where. There are a couple other famous arias that you will recognize, like Non più andrai.
Here's what other people are saying:
"A revival of a much-performed opera surprises us with its freshness and vigor."
Andrew Patner, Sun Times
"there was a sparkle and vitality about it I don't recall having witnessed since this "Nozze di Figaro" was new."
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
"If you can only see one opera this year-let it be The Marriage of Figaro at the Lyric Opera - its like being on a cloud on the way to heaven."
Tom Williams, Chicago Critic
"It's like watching a group of friends setting up good natured pranks to teach each other a lesson."
Katy Walsh, Chicago Theater Blog
"With a mostly terrific cast, Mozart's "Figaro" closes Lyric season in style"
Lawrence Johnson, Chicago Classical Review