A Wonderful ‘Figaro’ at Tri-Cities Opera

Review submitted by Tony Villecco

To open its 61st season, Binghamton’s Tri-Cities Opera has produced a visually and vocally sparkling “Le Nozze di Figaro.” Mozart’s perennial favorite, based on the story by Beaumarchais with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, has retained all of its humor and pathos, commenting on the division of class structure with as much relevance today as when it premiered in 1786. But make no mistake, it is the music that shines, and the majority of these young singers rose to its challenges.

Duane Skrabalak led the fine orchestra in some wonderful playing; the overture in particular was very well done. There were times, however, that he failed to rein in the players as the singers occasionally got ahead of the orchestra, making for a slight awkwardness.

The wise and crafty staging of director Peter Sicilian helped to delineate all of the characters with believability while providing for some fine comedic moments. As Susanna, soprano Julie Hamula has grown not only vocally but was also more secure in her acting.

William Roberts, a new resident artist this year, made an impressive Figaro. His voice is strong and secure in all registers, and he understood the complexity of his character. His baritone became even richer and warmer as the opera progressed. Cabiria Jacobsen was the poor, frustrated and lovelorn Cherubino.  Her “Non so piu cosa son” was well delivered in a pleasing soprano; the brittleness in her top register improved during her second-act aria, “Voi che sapete.”

The show’s stand-out was soprano Victoria Cannizzo as the Countess. She sang a particularly moving “Porgi amor” and is in possession of a darker, richer timbre than usually found in such a young singer. She is also a fine actress and made a striking figure on stage. Andrew Bawden’s Count made for a nice counterpart to his Countess and the often hilarious love games being played out within the opera. Vocally he has a pleasing baritone although much of the time it appeared to be covered, or “veiled,” and thus robbed of some of the potential richness of tone.

The minor roles were all done well, aided by Sicilian’s inventive staging and comedic deftness. Michael Fries was a very funny Don Basilio and has a lovely, pure and cutting tenor.  Ashley Maynard acquitted herself nicely as Marcellina as did David Neal as Bartolo. Barbarina was sung nicely by Jennifer Groves, and Julian Whitley (Antonio) and Kirk Dougherty (Don Curzio) made the most of their parts as well.

Special mention must be made of the lovely stage settings by Craig Saeger and Wally Coberg. The soft and lovely lighting was designed by Alan C. Edwards; costumiere Linda Jackson was responsible for the beautiful period costumes. As always, the all-volunteer chorus came through in fine manner despite not having much choral activity in this particular opera. Judging by the enthusiastic audience, Mozart’s effervescent music and skill at delineating his characters made a fine season opener for TCO.

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