Annapolis Opera’s production of The Marriage of Figaro is a beautiful blend of music, singing, and physical comedy. Directed by Corinne Hayes, with choreography by Sarah Oppenheim, and conducted by Craig Kier, it brings Mozart’s classic opera buffa to gorgeous life.
Efraín Solís plays Figaro with great craftiness. Faced with the Count’s attempts to seduce his bride-to-be Susanna, he immediately comes up with a plan to take his employer down a notch. He talks his way out of tricky situations, with the help of Susanna and the Countess whispering to him. He also has great emotion. Thinking Susanna is cheating on him, he weeps for being so in love with her, then rails against women.
Helen Zhibing Huang gives a feistiness to Susanna, the Countess’ maid and engaged to Figaro. She makes faces of distaste and pulls away from the Count as he tries to paw her. She teases Figaro’s jealousy, singing about a nonexistent lover while he watches her in secret. Theirs is a physical, loving relationship, with a few slaps along the way.
Kevin Godinez plays the Count with a conflicted sensuality. Eager to satisfy his lust with Susanna, he is horrified when he thinks his wife is having an affair, threatening to break down the closet door to catch the supposed lover. He apologizes when he is wrong, but sings about justifying his treatment of Figaro and Susanna for arousing a lust in him that she will not reciprocate.
Rachel Blaustein gives a deep emotion to the Countess. She sings about still wanting her husband, even when he seems not to want her anymore. Her love for him brings her pain, yet she works with Figaro and Susanna to bring him back. Their relationship is the most complex of the opera, and Godinez and Blaustein make it fascinating to watch.
Elizabeth Sarian brings a youthful lust to the trouser role of Cherubino, the young man passionately in love with the Countess. She sings passionately of how “Now I burn, now I’m freezing!” of love. Given the chance to sing to the Countess, she starts off hesitant at first, then confidently sings. Dressed in woman’s clothes to disguise herself from the Count, she comically plays a boy pretending to be a woman, lifting the hem of her dress and spinning. Finally able to pursue the object of her love, she kisses the Countess’ hands, passionately moving her. One wonders whether this traditional cross-dressing and gender-swapping role could be played in Tennessee now, with its new anti-drag law.
Andrew Adelsberger gives a pompousness to Dr. Bartolo, pacing the stage while singing of revenge against Figaro. This enthusiasm changes at a surprising revelation. Hannah Shea plays Marcellina, Figaro’s former love interest, with great comic timing. While Bartolo sings, she takes his cane and uses it to punctuate his phrases. She treats Susanna with over-politeness while telling the audience what she really thinks. After catching Figaro in her trap, she drags him into the room, holding onto him.
Brian Wallin plays nosy Don Basilio with a great glee. He cackles in delight as the Count catches Cherubino with Susanna, watching the comedy unfold. He unashamedly lifts women’s skirts, even as they slap away his hands. He is stooped over as the lawyer Don Curzio, pounding the desk in anger at any challenge to the legal documents.
Oznur Tuluoglu gives a youthful lightness to Barbarina, the gardener’s daughter. When she thinks she has lost an important item, she nearly weeps, but otherwise is all sweetness and charm. She uses her femininity to save Cherubino. Christopher Hartung plays Antonio the gardener with great seriousness, upset with all the shenanigans going around and eager to get Figaro in trouble.
Scenic Designer Jefferson Ridenour has created a set that both reflects the setting and feels appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day, with carved green doors, closets, and windows that have flecks of gold. Tables, chairs, desks, and covered furniture appear when necessary. For the garden in Act 4, trellises, shrubbery, and a bench appear.
Costume Designer Patty Hibbert also uses green in many of the outfits. Figaro’s vest and pants are green, as is the Count’s dressing gown, although he later changes into a light red jacket. Marcellina’s purple and black dress is so comically wide that she must enter and exit rooms sideways. Cherubino wears a light jacket, later changing into an orange, military-looking jacket and a tri-corner hat. Wig and Make-up Designer Priscilla Bruce has accurate-feeling wigs for Dr. Bartolo and Don Curzio.
Lighting Designer Chris Brusberg keeps the lights down low for Act 4, set in the garden, and gives a colorful surprise for the final, celebratory song.
Maestro Craig Kier conducts the orchestra expertly, although, at a few times, it overwhelms the singing. Choreographer Sarah Oppenheim provides lots of movement, with a lovely wedding procession and dance in Act 3. These also add to the moments of physical comedy, with characters pulling each other back and forth or holding a comically long document. Corinne Hayes does a wonderful job as director. The singers navigate the stage and each other well, and perfectly capture the comedy both vocally and physically. It gives much to enjoy for opera aficionados and novices alike. The final performance, Sunday, March 19, sold out, but check for future productions.
Running Time: Approximately three hours, including a 15-minute intermission.
The Marriage of Figaro played March 17 and 19, 2023, presented by Annapolis Opera performing at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts – 801 Chase Street in Annapolis, MD. For information about future productions and tickets, call the box office at 410-280-5640 or visit online.
The program for The Marriage of Figaro is available online.
COVID Safety: Masks are encouraged for all performances but are optional inside the building and theaters.