Review: Arizona Opera's 'The Marriage of Figaro'

2013-04-14T00:26:00Z 2013-04-14T20:32:33Z Review: Arizona Opera's 'The Marriage of Figaro'Cathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 14, 2013 12:26 am  • 

Joel Revzen has conducted Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” a number of times in his 40-plus-year career, but he insisted last week that this weekend’s Arizona Opera production is the best he’s seen.

He wasn’t exaggerating. Saturday night’s performance at Tucson Music Hall was so much fun you didn’t want it to end.

In fact, bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch in the title role was having so much fun that when the curtain fell he dropped to the stage and peered through the sliver of space between the curtain and floor to catch a final glimpse of the nearly sold-out hall.

“Figaro” is the 18th century’s answer to the modern day romantic comedy: Figaro and his girlfriend have to jump hoops to make it to the altar including cases of mistaken identity; a plot to reveal a rich guy as a womanizing slug; the reunion of Figaro and his parents, who are suing him to force him to marry a woman that turns out to be his mother; and the final moment of redemption and renewed love.

To pull this off, you need singers who can double as comic actors. Arizona Opera had a stage full of them Saturday night: The magnificently funny and wonderfully voiced soprano Sari Gruber was spunky and gutsy as Susanna; Okulitch was the perfect boy-next-door Figaro; the wonderful bass Marian Pop added a spark of slimy to his conniving Count Almaviva; and stunning soprano Erin Wall was appropriately desperate as his distressed wife Countess Almaviva.

The list goes on: Mezzo-soprano Jamie Van Eyck in the pants role of the lovesick Cherubino convinced you she was a teenage boy looking for love at every turn. Soprano Bevin Hill, a member of Arizona Opera’s Marion Roose Pullin Resident Artists program, as Cherubino’s main squeeze Barbarina had the vocal chops to match her comic timing. Strong-voiced mezzo Susan Nicely was a repeat-offender scene-stealer as Marcellina, the nursemaid of the conniving Dr. Bartolo (bass-baritone Peter Strummer) who turned out to be Figaro’s mother.

Then there was the music, performed by the Arizona Opera Orchestra with inspired enthusiasm and renewed sense of purpose under Revzen's baton. Revzen conducted while playing the harpsichord, which created a metallic, tingly sound between scenes that in many ways evolved into an off-stage character.

“Figaro” repeats at 2 p.m. today at Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. Click here for ticket information.

The production closes out Arizona Opera’s 2012-13 season. Next season opens with Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” on Oct. 19 at the Music Hall.

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