Review: ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ by the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music

W.A. Mozart’s opera, Le nozze di Figaro, came to life last night in the Hartke Theatre. Based on Beaumarchais’s scandalous and once-banned play, it depicts intrigue, class conflict, and domestic friction. Directed by James Hampton, the Catholic University of America sonorously performed one of history’s most beloved operas with some unconventional surprises. Performed by the CUA Orchestra, Mozart’s lively and playful overture commenced the evening. Maestro Simeone Tartaglione conducted the lengthy work with both vigor and delicacy. His interpretation of the score ensured a radiant performance, in which the orchestra both propelled and undergirded the voices on the stage.

The cast of leading characters was exceptional, and the ensemble finales of Acts II, III, and IV exhibited a resonant blending of voices that filled the theater. The two standouts of the evening – in both singing and acting – were Figaro and Susanna. From beginning to end, Kevin Johnson (Figaro) commanded the stage with his powerful and vibrant bass voice. Starting with his first act arias, “Se vuol ballare” and “Non più andrai,” until the fourth act “Aprite un po’ quegli occhi,” the audience was entranced by his rich sound.

Figaro’s bride-to-be was performed by the delightfully humorous Danielle Ray McKay. As the virtuous and modest Susanna, McKay portrayed the servant girl with wit and intelligence. Her stunning high notes soared resoundingly throughout the opera, and her Act IV aria “Deh vieni, non tardar” exhibited her ability to float delicately in her upper register. Susanna’s “Sull’ aria” duet with the Countess (sung by Sujin Kim) exhibited a pleasant intermingling of tones from the two sopranos.

Kim, on her part, performed the role of the crestfallen Countess Almaviva with an air of dignity and regality. Her breathtaking aria “Porgi, amor,” which opens Act II, was sung with poignancy and heartfelt emotion. During her lament in “Dove sono i bei momenti,” Kim’s shimmering vocal lines demonstrated the Countess’s inner strength. John Gibney portrayed the philandering Count Almaviva, and his third act aria “Vendrò mentr’io sospiro” displayed the vengefulness of his character.

Christa Nuno sang the part of the love-sick page, Cherubino. Her amusing depiction of the character, coupled with her sweet vocal tone in “Voi, che sapete,” made her an instant favorite with the audience. Meanwhile, in the role of Marcellina, Sarah Kim’s voice flourished during her didactic aria “Il capro e la capretta.” Bass Dariusz Ocetek (as a counterpart to Marcellina) performed the memorable “La vendettea” as the comical and decrepit Doctor Bartolo.

Ryan Slattery, portraying the foppish music master Don Basilio, sang a solid high note at the end of his tenor aria “In quegli anni.” The ensemble was rounded off by the jocular performances of Eui-Jung Chang (Barbarina), Andrew Marsiglia (Antonio), and Anselm Black (Don Curzio). The last finale of the night, beginning with the Count’s emotional plea “Contessa, perdono,” was exquisite and brought to a close a tale that ends happily ever after.

The opera was traditionally depicted in the abode of Count Almaviva. The scenes were distinguished by manipulating the interior of the eighteenth-century aristocratic home. The teal-colored set (Zachary Gilbert) was off-set by lighting (Paul Callahan) intended to set the mood and orient the viewer to the present action.

The University gave a fine performance of a beloved work, which merited a standing ovation at the end. With two performances left, this opera is not to be missed!

Sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Running Time: Approximately 3 hours, with a 30-minute intermission

Le nozze di Figaro plays through March 25, 2018 at The Hartke Theater at Catholic University – 3801 Harewood Road, NE in Washington, DC. To purchase tickets, go online.