A ‘Figaro’ With Youth, Agility and Eros

by Allan Kozinn (NYTimes)

«For a while, the return of Mozart’s “Nozze di Figaro” to the Metropolitan Opera stage promised at least one interesting quirk: Isabel Bayrakdarian was to sing Susanna, Figaro’s bride, though she is very visibly pregnant. A pregnant Susanna being chased by the Count and flirted with by Cherubino would have given the story a different spin.

But it was not to be. Ms. Bayrakdarian withdrew from the production last week, just a few days before the Tuesday opening. The soprano Lisette Oropesa, 24, a winner of the Met’s National Council Auditions in 2005 and currently in the company’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, took over the role. Before Tuesday, she had sung microscopic roles in Met productions of “Idomeneo” and “Suor Angelica.”

Ms. Oropesa’s last-minute elevation turns out to be a more interesting story than a pregnant Susanna. She proved a vocally and physically agile Susanna, with an attractively silky, flexible timbre. Her fine comic instincts and cheerfully bright sound put her in command of the stage during much of the first two acts. But she conveyed emotional depth too, most notably in her moving, dark-hued account of “Deh vieni, non tardar” in the final act.

Putting Ms. Oropesa in a cast that already included Erwin Schrott, a youthful Uruguayan bass, as Figaro, was a smart move: this nine-year-old Jonathan Miller production, now stage-directed by Robin Guarino, has worked best when the casts are not only vocally commanding, but young and trim as well. Mr. Schrott is a natural comedian and has a sonorous voice that served him well in a rambunctious “Se vuol ballare” and later, more seriously, in “Aprite un po’ quegl’occhi.”

Anke Vondung made her house debut as a believably boyish, love-struck Cherubino in the mold of Frederica von Stade’s classic portrayal. Her taut, polished “Non so più” could have been a touch more breathless, but it could hardly be said to have lacked passion. And her “Voi che sapete” was a thing of beauty: it was the only explanation necessary for why Ms. Guarino had Hei-Kyung Hong, the Countess, all but ravishing Cherubino in the moments before the Count’s untimely arrival.

Ms. Hong, long the Met’s utility Countess, has made her character warmer and more vulnerable here than in past appearances, and her “Dove sono” was as wrenching, but also as dignified, as it needs to be. Michele Pertusi’s Count was solid and suitably vexed, if less imperious than some.

The company also cast the smaller roles well. Ann Murray as Marcellina, Maurizio Muraro as Don Bartolo and Robin Leggate as Basilio gave more focused performances than those characters often get. Kathleen Kim rendered Barbarina’s music sweetly, and Bernard Fitch and Patrick Carfizzi made brief comic contributions as Don Curzio and Antonio.

Philippe Jordan’s conducting was energetic and stylish, and the orchestra played at its considerable best.»

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