Wedding season is in full swing here in the DC area, and Wolf Trap is no exception, with their stellar production of The Marriage of Figaro. Opening tonight and running through Saturday, June 20, 2015, this familiar opera was entirely fresh in Wolf Trap Opera’s new, high-energy production, back at Wolf Trap for the first time in 30 years.
One of Mozart’s most famous operas, The Marriage of Figaro tells the story of the wedding day of Susanna and Figaro, as their marriage is threatened on several fronts, though of course all turns out well in the end. Under the direction of David Paul, and beautifully conducted and performed by Kathleen Kelly and her group of talented musicians, the setting of this production in 19th century Spain makes this production feel fresh and innovative.
The scenic design by Wilson Chin, costumes by Stephanie Cluggish, hair and makeup by Anne Nesmith, and the lighting by Robert H. Grimes all come together wonderfully to really make the transformation to 19th century Spain believable. With fun touches like like the quintessential Spanish tiles along the top edge of the set, the Spanish mantillas worn by the Countess, twinkle lights strung across the top of the set for the garden scene, and a lively Spanish-type dance during the wedding scene, the Spanish setting really comes alive and makes the production of a this very popular opera interesting and vivid, rather than familiar and bland.
Also contributing to the vibrancy of this production was the enthusiasm of the singers and the sheer amount of effective physical comedy. Paul’s direction had the singers taking advantage of every possible opportunity for humor, to great effect. The opening scenes demonstrated the tone of this production, as multiple characters (including a delightfully brazen Cherubino played by Abigail Levis, and an authoritative Count (sung resonantly by Reginald Smith Jr.) ended up scaling the same ladder and hiding under blankets while still on the ladder! The flirtatious teasing between Thomas Richards (Figaro) and Tayla Lieberman (Susanna) was very humorously done, making those scenes with just the two of them especially fun.
However, the humor only works because of the fantastic quality of the singing that it supports. Kerriann Otano, as the Countess, as well as Lieberman, Smith, Levis, and Richards, were all excellent—clear, strong voices, resonant and expressive, doing more than justice to Mozart’s melodic score. Cherubino’s famous aria “Voi che sapete” was purely and soaringly sung by Levis, while Otano’s Act 3 aria “Dove sono i bei momenti” was heart wrenching, with a clarity and simplicity that belied the complications and difficulties of Mozart arias.
Between the fun setting, the humor, and the superb skill of the singers, this production of The Marriage of Figaro was well worth the 30 year wait! What a way to bring the fun back into weddings!
Running Time: 3 hours, with one 20-minute intermission.