The 2014-2015 Dallas Opera season officially kicked off on Friday night with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, a fitting opener considering it’s a sequel to Rossini’s The Barber of Seville which Dallas fans saw at the end of the 2013-2014 season. One of the most-performed operas around the world, Figaro centers around a single day of craziness in the palace of Count Almaviva near Seville with all of the main characters scheming against one another in order to delay the marriage of Figaro and Susanna; all for their own nefarious reasons. Thankfully, the follies within this highly comedic opera also happen to be accompanied by some of Mozart’s most memorable music, allowing for sincere moments within the hilarity.
Soprano Beate Ritter made her U.S. debut with a bang in the role of Susanna — the hopeful bride-to-be of Figaro. Her Giunse elfin il momento…Deh vieni, non tardar aria in the final act coupled spot-on dynamics and a dynamite upper tessitura which put the audience on the edge of their seats. A darker, more well rounded voice than the typical soubrette that gets cast as Susanna, Ritter brought a bit more cunning and a little less ditz to the role; a welcome reprieve. Ritter was only rivaled on the vocal front by fellow soprano Nicole Car, who also made her U.S. opera debut. Car as Countess Almaviva gives the least comedic and most touching moment in the opera with her Dove sono i bei momenti aria in Act III. Car and Ritter combined for what was easily the top performance of the evening in their hauntingly hilarious rendition of the duplicitous Sull’aria…che soave zeffiretto “Letter Duet.”
Bass Mirco Palazzi, last seen in Dallas as Leporello in Don Giovanni (2010), uses his strong bass-baritone and youthful swagger to bring a strong, willful character to the sometime witless role of Figaro. Whether it was in his opening cavatina, Se vuol ballare … or the march-like Non piu andrai, Palazzi perfectly brings out the characteristics within each piece in order to draw the audience in, usually accompanied by laughter.
Speaking of laughter, the two most comedic roles in the opera, Count Almaviva and Cherubino, performed by baritone Joshua Hopkins and Emily Fons (respectively), kept the audience rolling throughout. Even the mere sight of the characters entering the stage was enough to cue the audience throughout the evening.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention some of the pitfalls of what otherwise would have been a fantastic way to ring in this exciting new season. The most disappointing aspect of the evening for the audience was the loss of the supertitles for the entire second act of the opera. Without the assistance of translations in an already somewhat confusing opera (especially at the end of Act II), there was a very palpable “check-out” by the audience. When coupled with the later-than-normal start (due to the Opening Night festivities), there were many in the audience who used the supertitles as an excuse to leave after intermission. Luckily, the supertitles were back in Act III and the Dallas audience gave one of the loudest and longest applauses of the evening at the sight of their return. The re-engaged audience refocused on Figaro, and one of the strongest casts in recent memory was allowed to shine.
Operas still to come in the 2014-15 Season:
- La Wally/Everest
- La bohème