• Opera Review: ‘Marriage of Figaro’ beautiful and fun
    By Jim Lowe
    Staff Writer | May 18,2014
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    Provided photo Figaro (Brian Lynam), left, eyes his betrothed Susanna (Victoria Drew), right, as does the Count (Stephen Falbel), in back, in “The Marriage of Figaro.”
    Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” is considered by some to be the greatest opera of all time. Like a great Shakespeare comedy, it employs fully dimensional human beings to poke fun at the human condition. And, of course, there’s plenty of love, sex, betrayal, remorse and — since it’s comedy — reunion.

    And Mozart’s musical language is every bit as poetic and exquisitely expressive as the Bard’s use of the English language.

    Echo Valley Community Arts opened a production of “The Marriage of Figaro” — Friday at the newly renovated Plainfield Town Hall — that greatly surpassed expectations of community opera.

    Most entertaining, largely well sung and staged, it proved great fun — with plenty of musical beauty.

    “The Marriage of Figaro,” or “La Nozze di Figaro,” K. 492, is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 1786 setting of Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto based on a Baumarchais play of the same name, second of a set of three poking fun at the relationships between the classes.

    The entire opera is the story of the troubled and eventful wedding day of a couple of servants.

    Figaro and Susanna, employed by the Count and Countess Almaviva, are to be married, but the philandering Count wants a taste of the bride first. Susanna and the Countess, quite aware of this, attempt a plan to foil the Count. Meanwhile, the teen lothario Cherubino is planting his seed throughout the court.

    And, if that weren’t enough, the housekeeper Marcellina claims Figaro promised to marry her — and she’s holding him to that.

    The all-Vermont cast, both professional and amateur, proved successful. Stellar was Burlington soprano Victoria Drew whose sparkling portrayal of the effervescent Susanna lit up the stage. Not only did she use her warm coloratura lyrically, expressively, and with nuance, she proved a deft and witty comic actress as well as romantic heroine.

    Matching her, though not quite as deft, was baritone Brian Lynam as the frustrated Figaro. Not only did he sing with a warm, expressive lyricism — only in a few spots did he have trouble with the vocal range — he proved a charismatic and endearing comic as well as romantic hero.

    Baritone Stephen Falbel, though a bit reserved and not arrogant enough for his station, sang with rich expressiveness consistently throughout as the Count Almaviva. Though not as consistent, soprano Ellen Blachly was a regal Countess, singing with passion, and she achieved some moments of exquisite brilliance.

    Mezzo-soprano Lillie Camellia — in a “pants role” — sang warmly and expressively, and was quite fun as the wily Cherubino. Mezzo-soprano Carol Spradling and baritone Marek Pyka delivered wonderfully comic performances as Marcellina and her cohort Don Bartolo.

    The Echo Valley production was well directed by artistic director Naomi Flanders, a community opera veteran, save for some awkwardness in the final act. But it proved real comedy.

    Music director Eliza Thomas led the professional string ensemble in an excellent performance, balanced and nuanced.

    The set had a warmth and unique charm unique to its creator, artist Nicholas Hecht. Period costumes by Nancy Smith and Carol Muenier were simple but effective, as was the lighting by Patrick Schlott. At opening night, the super-titles seemed to have a mind of their own, but I have been told it was a technical glitch that has since been repaired.

    Echo Valley’s “The Marriage of Figaro” proved what community opera can and should be — by and for the community, as well as beautiful and entertaining.

    Echo Valley Community Arts

    Echo Valley Community Arts presents Mozart’s opera, “The Marriage of Figaro,” fully staged and sung in in the original Italian with English super-titles, May 16-25 at the Plainfield Town Hall Opera House, Route 2 in Plainfield. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $22, $20 for seniors, $18 for students, $10 for kids; call 225-6471, or go online to www.catamountarts.org.
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