Sunday, October 11, 2015

Even with Appreciative Admiration Rather than Emotional Embrace, Lyric's New Engagement of 'The Marriage of Figaro' is Rather Blissful -- Chicago Opera Review

Opera / Theater Review

The Marriage of Figaro
by Mozart 
directed by Barbara Gaines 
Lyric Opera of Chicago 
Thru October 24 

Every time I write an opera review it includes many of the same explanations. 

I enjoy, appreciate and admire opera but never "feel it" the way I do rock, Broadway and jazz. 

Even after seeing more than 50 operas, I consider myself an opera dilettante rather than an aficionado. 

I used to subscribe to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, but never became truly enraptured, and found 8 operas per season burdensome. 

I don't listen to opera regularly, or even in preparation for seeing particular titles. 

I seemingly suffer from Opera Amnesia, as neither storylines nor scores--save for particularly iconic overtures--stay with me long. (Tuesday marked my third time seeing The Marriage of Figaro in the part 12 years yet it predominantly seemed new.) 

I find most operas to have rather inane narratives, though even serious devotees seem to agree with this. 

I often have trouble keeping my eyelids from drooping at the opera, especially through loooooonnnnng works. 

Even when awake, my mind tends to wander and I miss some of the supertitles and story. 

And yet, I keep opting to go, which must mean something. 

In recent years I've typically chosen 1-2 operas to go to ad hoc each season, plus the Lyric's spring Rodgers & Hammerstein production. But when an offer came to choose three 2015-16 operas for $33 each in the first balcony--usually that price or more puts one at the back of the second (top) balcony--I was intrigued enough to choose four: The Marriage of Figaro, Wozzeck, The Merry Widow and Nabucco. 

The other current production, Cinderella, also sounds terrific, other titles hold some appeal and I fully intend to see The King & I, having greatly enjoyed the Lyric's lavish, resplendent takes on Oklahoma, The Sound of Music and Carousel

This new production of The Marriage of Figaro is directed by Barbara Gaines, founder and Artistic Director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. 

While my recollect of past productions, most recently in 2010, is rather scant, I believe Gaines brought whimsical vibrancy and newfound buoyancy to Mozart's great opera, complemented by great costuming by Susan Mickey and an innovative set design by James Noone. 

The fantastic overture sounded phenomenal, and while I lack the wherewithal to name specific songs or cite which aria was sung by who, I appreciated how The Marriage of Figaro features solo turns by several characters, duets--including by Adam Plachetka as Figaro and Christiane Krug as his soon-to-be wife, Susanna--larger small group numbers and some nice choral pieces. 

Luca Pisaroni made for a rather suave Count Almaviva--Figaro's employer, who though married, is a constant womanizer, including of Susanna--and though a pre-show announcement asked the audience's understanding as Amanda Majeski fought through a cold as Countess Almaviva, I certainly couldn't hear anything deficient in her performance. 

Especially in this ravishing rendition, Figaro is a truly sumptuous opera, and even if my enjoyment and memory are again fleeting, I nonetheless feel enriched for having taken it in. 

While I entered truly looking forward to the experience and never rued it, I was somewhat tired throughout the 3-1/2 performance, and though highly appreciative--and perhaps a bit more embracing--I still can't say I was truly smitten as by a great musical or rock concert. 

The music and singing were sublime, and I reminded myself throughout not to worry much about not fully understanding all the plot twists--one of which involves a male servant named Cherubino, who is played by a woman (Rachel Frenkel) and within the play is asked to disguise himself as a female. 

Still, with binoculars, bouncing between the action onstage and the English supertitles above, never allowed for a perfect balance between just "going with it" and trying to grasp what was happening in the farcical soap opera with a libretto by Lorenzo da Pointe. Being a bit sleepy at times also didn't abet this. 

But I think I'm safe to say that if you're an opera lover, Ms. Gaines' production of The Marriage of Figaro is a delicious feast for the eyes and ears, and if you're an interested neophyte--as I still consider myself--there is, even if one ingests it more admiringly than emotionally, undoubtedly a whole lot to savor. 

I should also note the Opera Talk, held an hour before each performance, was quite valuable, as much for learning why The Marriage of Figaro is so esteemed as for abetting my enjoyment of the present production. 

1 comment:

Ken said...

I try, and I try, and I try...but I can't get no....satisfaction (from opera).