Review: New Faces for “Marriage of Figaro” – Los Angeles Opera, March 21, 2015

The Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” in a performance that was cheered by the appreciative audience.

The cast demonstrated, not only the depth of the world’s operatic talent, but the commitment of the Los Angeles Opera to introducing new singers or singers in new roles to Los Angeles audiences.

The quintet of lead roles (the servant couple Figaro and Susanna, the Count and Countess Almaviva and their page boy Cherubino) were assigned to a youthful and enchanting group of artists representing four continents (Europe, Africa, Asia and North America).

[Below: Roberto Tagliavini (left) as Figaro and Pretty Yende (right) as Susanna; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathews photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]


Roberto Tagliavini’s Figaro

In his Los Angeles Opera (and American) debuts, Italian bass-baritone RobertoTagliavini was Figaro.

Tagliavini, who had sung recently in Vienna with the Los Angeles Opera’s general director, Placido Domingo (with the company’s music director James Conlon conducting) in Verdi’s “I Due Foscari”.

A specialist in Mozart and bel canto bass-bairtone roles, Tagliavini brought a lively vitality and lustrous basso sound to the title role.

Pretty Yende’s Susanna

Susanna was sung by South African lyric soprano Pretty Yende, who had made a strong impression as Micaela two seasons ago. [See Domingo at Helm for a Stellar “Carmen” – Los Angeles Opera, September 21, 2013.]

Singing the longest role in the opera, Yende, who has won several Placido Domingo-sponsored international competitions, was an eye-catching presence, a graceful actress, and as pretty-voiced as she is pretty-named.

[Below: the Count Almaviva (Ryan McKinny, left) is intent on seducing Susanna (Pretty Yende) who is determined he will not; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathews photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]


Ryan McKinny’s Count Almaviva

Over the past two years California baritone Ryan McKinny has added meaty roles of Wagner [Ryan McKinny, Melody Moore, Jay Hunter Morris Soar in “Flying Dutchman” – Glimmerglass Festival, July 18, 2013] Verdi [Dramatic, lyrical and powerful: Ryan McKinny’s Rigoletto Role Debut – Houston Grand Opera, January 24, 2014] and Previn [A Theatrically Brilliant “Streetcar Named Desire” Stars Fleming, McKinny, Tappan and Griffey – Los Angeles Opera, May 18, 2014] to his performance repertory.

Yet McKinny demonstrates comfort and the vocal control required of aa Mozartean, as well as brilliant comic timing for a character whose unceasing (and unsuccessful) schemes to sexually subdue Susanna are the center of Mozart’s comedy.  [See also Rising Stars: An Interview with Ryan McKinny.]

Renée Rapier’s Cherubino

Iowa mezzo-soprano Renée Rapier, an alumna of the Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist’s program, proved an endearing and funny Cherubino, who sings (beautifully) two of Mozart’s most famous arias and gets abundant laughs as Tagliavini’s Figaro sings Non piu andrai, the number one aria on the Mozart hit parade.

Although she has had important comprimario roles at both the Los Angeles and San Francisco Operas [see Vittorio Grigolo, Nino Machaidze Sublime in Ian Judge’s Romantic, Erotic “Romeo et Juliette” – Los Angeles Opera, November 9, 2011], her Los Angeles Opera Cherubino should be considered a breakout role for this talented mezzo.

[Below: Figaro (Roberto Tagliavini, right) explains to Cherubino (Renée Rapier, left) what life as a soldier will be like; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathews photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]


 Guanqun Yu’s Countess Almaviva

I had admired Chinese soprano Guanqun Yu’s Countess Almaviva in the first segment of Los Angeles Opera’s “Figaro Trilogy” [See Review: Los Angeles Opera Launches Ambitious New Production of “Ghosts of Versailles” – February 7, 2015.]

Yet another artist who has sung with Domingo in Europe (as Lucrezia in “I Due Foscari” in Valencia, Spain) she is now an established presence at the New York Met, assaying Leonora in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” there.

Her two great arias Porgi, amor and Dove sono were spellbinding, delivered with the sensitivity and control that suggests this will be a role that is central to her repertory, even as she explores the Verdian dramatic soprano territory.

[Below: Guanqun Yu as Rosina, the Countess Almaviva; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathews photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]


Other Cast Members

The trio of elder conspirators was sung with the proper comic touches by the veteran team of Icelandic basso Kristinn Sigmundsson as Doctor Bartolo, Pennsylvania character tenor Robert Brubaker as Don Basilio, and Illinois mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer as Marcellina. All were effective comedians, Brubaker’s oily Basilio especially noteworthy.

[Below: Don Basilio (Robert Brubaker, left), Marcellina (Lucy Schaufer, middle) and Doctor Bartolo (Kristinn Sigmundsson, right) enter into a conspiracy to revenge themselves; edited image, based on Craig T. Mathews photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]


New York bass-baritone Philip Cokorinos and Ohio tenor Joel Sorensen, both invaluable veterans of the comic character roles were respectively the gardener Antonio and Don Curzio.

South Korea soprano So Young Park impressed in the role of Barbarina, to whom is entrusted one of Mozart’s haunting melodies.

The Production and Staging

British director Ian Judge participated in the revival of his staging of his production for the Los Angeles Opera, previously seen here in 2004, 2006 and 2010 [See Domingo’s Domain: The Incredible Maestro Conducts Los Angeles Opera “Nozze” – October 6, 2010.]

The Los Angeles Opera has a special affinity with this imaginative director, who has staged several productions for the company [See Powerful, Edgy “Tannhauser” at Los Angeles Opera – February 28, 2007 for what is perhaps his most celebrated (and notorious) endeavor here.]

Mozart’s opera is eternally funny (those who have seen it multiple times know every joke and every comic bit, yet it can always be staged in unexpected ways, and Judge’s conceptualization of the piece was high-spirited and effective.

[Below: the first scene, taking place in Figaro’s and Susanna’s bedroom; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathews photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]


The sets by Tim Goodchild and costumes by Deirdre Clancy time-shifted the action, but do not detract from the opera’s storyline.

The conducting by James Conlon was scintillating (his first Los Angeles Opera “Nozze” and as he related in the well-attended pre-opera talks over which he presides, his first-ever back to back performances of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” and Mozart’s “sequel”).


I recommend this production and cast enthusiastically for both the veteran opera-goer and the person new to opera.