Monday, October 15, 2018
Stage

Ensembles highlight Opera Tampa’s well-rounded ‘Figaro’

TAMPA — After The Barber of Seville, the predecessor in Pierre Beaumarchais’ Figaro trilogy, The Marriage of Figaro promised an entertaining continuity. Singers in two major roles would return, Gabriel Preisser as Figaro and Cecilia Violetta López as the former Rosina (now Countess Almaviva), this time in an opera scored by Mozart that some consider the greatest ever written.

This production, which opened Friday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, makes every effort (as did the composer and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte) to streamline its complications, even though these by definition take a few hours to unravel. The result is at least even-handed and often thrilling, particularly with the ensemble singing that has dazzled audiences since 1786. The opera was daring for its irreverent portrayal of wealthy men as lecherous ogres and famous for the gentle rebuke of its biggest supporter, Emperor Joseph II, who chided, "Too many notes, Mozart." (Other contemporaries dinged his work for its "impenetrable labyrinths" and "bizarre flights of the soul.")

Preisser has the comedic instincts to portray a lighthearted Figaro, who has legitimate reasons to seek revenge on Count Almaviva (Se vuol ballare, "If you want to dance, sir count"), and scales the higher climes of his baritone range like a second tenor.

No one mined unhappy marriages better than Mozart (see Cosi Fan Tutte and Don Giovanni). The Count’s unscrupulous designs on Susanna, Figaro’s fiancée, sets the stage for decidedly noncomedic dimensions, starting with López’s aria to open the second act (Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro, "Grant, love, some comfort"), which exudes the pathos of a lonely marriage. SeungHyeon Baek has a commanding baritone, delivering the strongest singing in a male role. At the same time, he seemed stuck on being menacing, providing little support for why his affections would be missed.

Overall, however, this production threads the delicate balance between vocals and acting prowess as well as any local opera in recent memory. Claire Coolen provided both as Susanna in a performance that carried the show’s comic energy through four acts. Coolen occasionally seemed a little strained in the upper register, but smoothed that out after the first act. Emily Righter did indispensable work as Cherubino, the lovestruck teenage boy (who later disguises himself as a woman), particularly in her movement.

Smaller roles also acquitted themselves well, including Robyn Rocklein as Marcellina and Eileen Vanessa Rodriguez as the saucy Barberina. So, too, did conductor Jorge Parodi, who led the orchestra with the right mix of restraint and exuberance, starting with that explosive overture.

The biggest payoff comes in those labyrinthine ensembles, with clusters of singers singing trios and quartets simultaneously, the kind of work that led Johannes Brahms to declare, "In my opinion, each number in Figaro is a miracle; it is totally beyond me how anyone could create anything so perfect."

Examples include the trio, Susanna, or via, sortite ("Susanna, come out"), the 20-minute finale in the second act and the finale in the fourth. So many fine singers lined the stage, pouring out those joyous harmonies like golden liquid from a pitcher.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
Where to find Tampa Bay Halloween parties, pumpkin patches and events

Where to find Tampa Bay Halloween parties, pumpkin patches and events

Experience everything from kid-friendly events to horrifying haunted houses to spooky art projects this weekend in Tampa Bay.
Published: 10/11/18
Ernest Hooper: Tampa Bay Food Fight brings chefs, foodies together for good cause

Ernest Hooper: Tampa Bay Food Fight brings chefs, foodies together for good cause

The participants will fight for bragging rights, and the chance to help aspiring culinary artists.
Published: 10/10/18
What’s on stage this week: 'The Play That Goes Wrong,' Florida Orchestra does Harry Potter

What’s on stage this week: 'The Play That Goes Wrong,' Florida Orchestra does Harry Potter

In one play, everything goes wrong on purpose. Plus, the Florida Orchestra tackles Harry Potter, and Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson meet, defying the odds.
Published: 10/10/18
Zev Buffman retires as Ruth Eckerd Hall president and CEO

Zev Buffman retires as Ruth Eckerd Hall president and CEO

After seven years as the CEO and president of Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Zev Buffman has announced his retirement. The veteran theater impresario, who turns 88 next week, made the announcement on Thursday, but said he and his wife had reached t...
Published: 10/04/18
Updated: 10/05/18
This week on stage: American Stage’s ‘Between Riverside and Crazy,’ lots of comedy

This week on stage: American Stage’s ‘Between Riverside and Crazy,’ lots of comedy

AMERICAN STAGE: BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZYWalter "Pops" Johnson, a retired New York City police officer, has his hands full in Between Riverside and Crazy, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ 2015 Pulitzer-winning play. American Stage opens the season with L. Pet...
Published: 10/03/18
Seventy years after war crimes trials, ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ still asks a timely question

Seventy years after war crimes trials, ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ still asks a timely question

TAMPA — A simple set tells the story. A table for three judges assigned to rule on war crimes following World War II rests on stacks of suitcases, signifying hasty travel. On the floor, by a gallery of defendants, snakes a trail of discarded shoes. W...
Published: 10/01/18
Florida Orchestra opens season with a powerful Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

Florida Orchestra opens season with a powerful Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

TAMPA — The Florida Orchestra season got off to a strong start Friday with Ludwig van Beethoven’s most famous work, the broodingly triumphant Symphony No. 5. Music director Michael Francis also conducted Sergei Rachmaninoff’s breakout Piano Concerto ...
Updated one month ago
Florida Orchestra extends contract of music director Michael Francis an additional three years

Florida Orchestra extends contract of music director Michael Francis an additional three years

ST. PETERSBURG — With the Florida Orchestra on stage behind him, Michael Francis was deep into a lecture Thursday about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 when an alert went off on someone’s phone.The music director paused."An Amber Alert," he mused. "Is it ...
Updated one month ago
On stage this week: Orchestra opens with Beethoven, Freefall with ‘The Fantasticks’

On stage this week: Orchestra opens with Beethoven, Freefall with ‘The Fantasticks’

FLORIDA ORCHESTRA: BEETHOVEN’S FIFTHLudwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 begins famously — da-da-da-daaaaah — and builds through mind-boggling elaborations on that motif. Music director Michael Francis conducts as the Florida Orchestra opens its sea...
Updated one month ago
Before Tampa show, comic Hari Kondabolu talks Apu, Colin Kaepernick, #MeToo and race in America

Before Tampa show, comic Hari Kondabolu talks Apu, Colin Kaepernick, #MeToo and race in America

Hari Kondabolu’s grandmother died this summer. He spent three weeks in India, saying goodbye and grieving with family. And even then, even at such a sorrowful time in his life, he couldn’t turn off the part of his brain that looks for jok...
Updated one month ago