Miami Summer Music Festival: Le Nozze Di Figaro Review

Miami Summer Music Festival: Le Nozze Di Figaro Review

The Shot Glass Review

This entry was posted in Opera Review and tagged Le nozze di Figaro Miami Summer Music festival opera on July 7, 2014 by Nate Sykes.

On July 3rd The Miami Summer Music Festival presented its second full opera of its inaugural season, Mozart’s 1784 comedy Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). Based on the French comedy La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais, Mozart’s opera picks up several years after The Barber of Seville, which was so popular that it was adapted into an opera twice.

As an “opera buffa” (comic opera) Figaro is the operatic equivalent farce; complete with mistaken identities, lecherous aristocrats, super smart servants, bumbling idiots and lots and lots of doors. Together with the previous night’s performance of Die Zauberflöte, The Miami Summer Music Festival is firmly anchoring itself in the classics. While most audiences won’t do a Mozart doubleheader, it was helpful to see some of the same singers repeated in different roles, and also to see the contrasts between directors and conductors.

Le nozze di Figaro takes place over the course of one day, the wedding day of Figaro. Figaro is the head servant to the Count Almaviva and is engaged to a fellow servant Susanna. The Count, typically, has eyes for every woman that is not his wife and at the moment is completely enamored with Susanna. This leads to the “day of madness” (la folle journée) of the original play’s title.

The title role of Figaro is sung by Hungarian bass-baritone Attilla Dobak. From the moment the lights come up on Figaro’s bedroom Dobak commands attention. Firstly, as the tall, dark and handsome valet he embodies the roguish servant to a tee. Vocally his voice is full, deep and warm, it’s no wonder Susanna has fallen for him.

Speaking of Susanna, singing the role of Figaro’s fiance is Jessica Fishenfeld. Not only is her voice crystalline and pure, her comic timing is spot on. While most often the ingenue is either a ditz or just plain innocent, not so with Susanna. She keeps Figaro’s scheming machinations on track. Whether it’s guiding the young lover, Cherubino, out the nearest window or doing a little scheming and seducing of her own Susanna is the glue that holds everything together. In the hands of a less capable performer this role could have fallen flat, Fishenfeld carries the role and makes it her own.

Singing the role of Count Almaviva is Aaron Keeny. Villains in farce tend to be widely drawn and the Count is no different. He is led by one thing, and it’s not his heart. If this performance is any indication, baritone Kenny has a solid career ahead of him. He’s funny, slimy and quite fun to watch.

If Dobak’s Figaro is the rock of male characters, Soprano Rebecca Henriques rocks the house as the sadly forgotten and beleaguered Countess Almaviva. Henriques will be seen next season as one of Florida Grand Opera’s Young Artists. It’s easy to see why. Her soprano voice is outstanding; her act 2 aria: Porgi, amor, sung while alone in her dressing room was absolutely gorgeous.

Just because the Count is busy carousing doesn’t mean the Countess doesn’t have any admirers; enter the young and perky Cherubino, sung by mezzo-soprano Natalie Havens. If you are new to opera, the concept of a male character being sung by a soprano may seem odd. “Pants roles”,as they are called are difficult, and not necessarily because of the music. Finding a mezzo-soprano that can sing the role AND play a convincing boy is the challenge. One only has to look across the pond to a recent production of Der Rosenkavalier to see the challenges a mezzo faces. Havens nails it. Not only does she her sing her heart out, she embodies the lovestruck young man with absolute conviction. Her actions and movements are rock solid and we believe that she is this young boy who is madly in love with the much older Countess. Brava(o)!

Le nozze di Figaro is an opera, but it’s also a farce and as such the acting is just as important as the singing. Directed by Jeffrey Buchman, Fiagro is sharp and tight from beginning to end. The Miami Summer Music Festival is a young company, and as such large lavish scenery really isn’t in the cards. Using simple doors, a few furniture pieces, the occasional potted plant and sections of orchestra shell Buchman and scenic designer Dung Truong created solid locales within a very confined space. Never over directed or over staged the production was believable and enjoyable from beginning to end.

Mozart’s score is perhaps one of the most recognizable pieces in classical music. Bits of pieces of Le nozze di Figaro have turned in popular film and television for years. The sull’aria turns up in the 1994 classic film The Shawshank Redemption. The Overture makes an appearance in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as of all things a lock combination and who knew that the 1983 comedy Trading Places used the Overture again as its theme. Leading the orchestra for this production is Artistic Director Michael Rossi. Rossi has selected a fine group of musicians to fill his pit, and I look forward to hearing some of them again in the future.

Le nozze di Fiagro is performed regularly in small theaters and grand opera houses the world over.If this production had been lifted up and placed on a larger stage with grander sets it would have been just as much at home. This speaks to the caliber of the singers, and the quality of the direction. The term “grand opera” gets batted around in opera circles ad nauseum. Is it possible to have “grand opera” without the “Grand” expense? I believe this production proves that it is.

The Miami Summer Music Festival has a grand mission, and if this season is any indication they are well on their way to fulfilling that mission. Rossi selected an outstanding team this year. Whether it was Buchman who directed this production, or conductor Grzegorz Nowak who conducted the previous night’s Die Zauberflöte, or The Met’s Caren Levine who prepped the singers for these difficult roles, everyone should be commended. I am looking forward to next year. Bravo!

The Miami Summer Music Festival and Opera Institute concluded its inaugural season on July 6th. For further information or to participate in next years festival visit their website

Jack Garder’s review of Le nozze di Figaro for Edge Media Networks

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