Le Nozze di Figaro
On April 4 the Atlanta Opera offered an exceedingly fast-paced rendition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Stage director Tara Faircloth made her AO debut this night with distinction, creating an unstoppable momentum of manipulation and misunderstandings.
Buffa characters Susannah and Figaro, played by Lauren Snouffer and Craig Colclough respectively, were delightfully revealed and developed through their interaction with each other and the other players. Snouffer is a pert, pretty soubrette recently graduated from the Houston Grand Opera Studio and adept at the fast-paced antics that DaPonte and Mozart supplied. The first scene revealed a compelling chemistry and well-matched vocalism between Snouffer and Colclough as they flirted on Susan Benson’s set, a simplistic, yet lovely backdrop of blue-green forest and three doors from which the other players entered and exited in a hilarious, Seinfeld-esque fashion.
Baritone Colclough sang a confident, clever Figaro from the start, although the nuanced phrasing within his cavatina “Se vuol ballare” was overshadowed by the overly ambitious orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fagen. Arguably, the inconsistent playing of the Atlanta Opera Orchestra from show to show is a significant obstacle to the achievement of the company’s national stature as a stellar regional opera.
With the exception of the ever-refined Countess Almaviva, Faircloth introduced each member of the cast as a caricature of sorts. With her obnoxious red curls and distinctive mole, veteran mezzo Victoria Livengood nearly stole the show as Marcellina. Livengood’s voice is brassy, but the harshness of her sound punctuated each comedic moment. Whether flirting, lounging, or dumping Susannah’s laundry during their duet “Via resti servita,” Livengood did it with panache. Her partner in crime, Dr. Bartolo, was played by a stoic Bruno Praticò and together with Don Basilio the portly couple conspired to undo Figaro’s marriage plans. Jason Ferrante — a skilled character tenor who appeared in the Atlanta Opera’s recent production of Madama Butterfly — here reinvented himself as the greasy-haired Don Basilio.
Some may have had qualms with the manner in which the Count Almaviva was characterized within this production, however. In keeping with the aforementioned zaniness, baritone John Moore’s Count was foolish, sporting exaggerated gestures and facial expressions. As an actor, Moore was fully invested and seemed comfortable inhabiting every aspect of his role. The comic aspect was entertaining while more serious moments, such as the Act II finale when we witness the Count curse his wife’s infidelity, were less convincing.
Irish mezzo-soprano Naomi O’Connell established Cherubino’s character with his breathless aria, “Non so più.” Initially O’Connell’s voice seemed lighter and brighter than Susannah’s, but with her second aria the timbre of her voice warmed and became better suited to that of a love-crazed young man. The object of Cherubino’s affection, the Countess, was sung by the head-turning Katie Van Kooten, who has a sizeable lyric soprano. Van Kooten displayed an exquisite mastery of dynamic contrast and glorious phrasing within her contemplative aria, “Porgi amor.”
In addition to Tomer Zvulun’s spot-on casting and an energetic flow of music and drama, this Atlanta Opera production boasted some updated supertitles that thrilled the audience all the more, bridging the language gap. As Mozart and Beaumarchais intended to make a political statement about social class within Le Nozze di Figaro, likewise this production was so fresh that it had the ability to bridge yet another gap, entertaining the amateur and the opera aficionado alike.