07 Jul Le Nozze di Figaro at Miami Summer Music Festival Review
Edge Ft. Lauderdale
Le Nozze di Figaro
by Jack Gardner
Monday Jul 7, 2014
On July 3, the Miami Summer Music Festival presented the third opera of their opening season with Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center at Florida International University.
This production was the crown jewel in a very ambitions and very successful opening season for the festival. It was very nearly perfect.
“Le Nozze di Figaro,” or in English, “The Marriage of Figaro,” is one of the ten most performed operas in the world. This chestnut tells the story of Valet Figaro who wishes to marry chambermaid Susanna. But their lecherous master, Count Almaviva, wishes to bed Susanna, much to the consternation of his wife the Countess Almaviva, and is therefore delaying the marriage. The two women band together along with Figaro and the page boy Cherubino to thwart the counts plans.
Fine singing has been a mark of all the opera productions at this year’s festival. What sets “Figaro” apart is the superb stage direction by Jeffrey Buchman. Buchman, with the help of scene designer Dung Truong, transformed the concert hall stage of the Wertheim Performing Arts Center into an 18th century palace using only furniture and the moveable pieces of the choir shell. They proved with masterful execution that Grand Opera does not have to involve grand, expensive scenery.
Every movement made by the singers was obviously thought out, motivated and well-rehearsed. Musical Director and Conductor Michael Rossi prepared these singers vocally and Buchman prepared them mentally to give fine, strong and convincing performances.
The entire cast was stellar across the board. In the role of Figaro, bass-baritone Attila Dobak was right at home. Hungarian – born Dobak made his professional debut in 2013 and is already a rising star. Figaro is almost a perfectly tailored role for him and it shows in his performance.
As the less than virtuous Count Almaviva, baritone Aaron Keeney also gave a fine performance. The role of the frustrated lover provided ample opportunities for Keeney to show both his vocal and acting prowess.
In the role of the Countess Almaviva, Rebecca Henriques nearly stole the show. Henriques has a darker vocal tone and a voice with a very substantial size.
While the two central characters are baritones, Mozart’s “Figaro” is really all about the ladies — specifically the three sopranos as well as the mezzo-soprano dressed as a boy.
In the role of Susanna, Figaro’s bride to be, soprano Jessica Fishenfeld gave a very strong performance. Susanna is a challenging role both vocally and acting wise. Fishenfeld handled the large vocal range with ease giving the audience soaring, glittering high notes as well as nice, easily audible chest tones in the lower register, particularly in the aria “Deh vieni, non tardar.” Fishenfeld has an innate comic ability and her entire performance was played with a delightful twinkle in her eye.
In the role of the Countess Almaviva, Rebecca Henriques nearly stole the show. Henriques has a darker vocal tone and a voice with a very substantial size. Her rendition of “Porgi amor” was flawless and her portrayal of the countess who ranges from neglected wife, to vengeful wife and then back around to loving wife was spot on. She elicited sympathy from the audience for her characterization and ’Bravas’ for her vocal ability. Henriques is a member of the 2014-2015 Florida Grand Opera Young Artist studio.
French soprano Antonia Denavit played Marcellina, the older lady who is helping the count thwart Figaro’s marriage plans but who is later revealed to be his mother. Her voice was dark and rich and she gave a very strong performance in the role.
Mezzo-soprano Natalie Havens, a recent graduate of Florida State University, gave a fantastic performance as the page boy Cherubino. ’Pants roles’ like this one are a staple of the mezzo-soprano repertoire and while Havens is by no means manly looking, she is able to pull off ’young man’ while still being womanly and her voice is absolutely lovely.
Of the three operas presented at this years’ Summer Music Festival, “Le Nozze di Figaro” was the most realized and the most deftly handled. From casting to direction and on through musical direction, lighting and costumes, every piece of this puzzle of a show was put together seamlessly on stage.
“Le Nozze di Figaro” played through July 6 at the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center of the Florida International University, 10910 SW 17th St. in Miami, FL 33199. For tickets and information, call 305-673-3331 or visit www.MiamiSummerMusicFestival.com.