Miami Music Festival’s fine “Figaro” serves Mozart well

By Lawrence Budmen

ssyyad Sara law in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro at the Miami Music Festival. Photo: Angelica Perez

Eun Byoul Song, Danil Alekseenko and Sara Law in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro at the Miami Music Festival. Photo: Angelica Perez

The Miami Music Festival’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro proved a fine who showcase for the musical and theatrical versatility of a group of talented young singers Friday night at Miami Beach High School.

While the cast lacked the extra polish that experienced professionals can bring to this repertoire staple, the artists’ energy and enthusiasm produced some worthy and idiomatic singing in a staging that was true to the bubbly spirit of this Mozart farce.

Russian born Danil Alekseenko dominated the stage as Figaro. Every inch the factotum and schemer, Alekseenko’s bass-baritone has the depth and power for the role’s lowest notes. His booming sound can also turn suave and mellow. Figaro’s Act IV aria “Aprite un po’quegli occhi” was sung with subtlety, more inward reflection than vocal showpiece. His chemistry and rapport with the  Susanna of Sara Law was a particular delight throughout the performance.

Law scored impressively last summer as Tytania in the MMF production of Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her attractive voice and animated stage presence provided plenty of comedic fizz. Disguised as Countess Almaviva in the masquerade of the final scene, Law brought charm and just the proper faux allure to “Deh vieni, non tardar.” Whether trading barbs and scuffles with Marcellina or pretending infatuation with the lecherous Count Almaviva, this Susanna was athletic as well as vocally agile.

Nathaniel Voth was properly arrogant and amorous as Almaviva with an expressive baritone and fine attention to the text in recitatives. For once the count’s vengeance aria was supple and finely shaded rather than sung at top volume.

As Cherubino, India Rowland was a real discovery. Her fetching demeanor took full command of the page’s scenes. Rowland’s warm mezzo timbre blossomed in “Voi che sapete,” receiving the ovation of the evening.

Although properly regal and aristocratic, Eun Byoul Song’s Countess Almaviva was vocally problematic. While her middle register is rich, Song’s voice turns shrill at the top and her pitch can waver. “Porgi amor” failed to cast a spell, and while her “Dove sono” was more effective, the effort was apparent. Her best singing came in the letter duet with Law, their voices blending to wonderful effect.

While David Presler is not a true basso-buffo, he is a striking singing actor with the low notes and patter agility for Bartolo’s “La vendetta.” Kaitlin Bertschi’s Marcellina was a riot, a natural comedienne with an old fashioned plush mezzo. Max Alexander Cook captured the oily sarcasm and two-faced conniving of Basilio, his light tenor inflecting the text artfully.

Catherine McAree’s light soprano was lovely and radiant in Barbarina’s brief aria, making one hope to hear her in larger roles in the future. Playing the drunken gardener Antonio, Christian Kas was a vocally capable, ragged comic who knew how to steal a scene. The chorus of servants and peasants was voluminous and well blended.

Conductor Raphael Jimenez (a faculty member at Oberlin Conservatory) kept the pace lively and expertly coordinated the extended finale of Act II. Still, the orchestra took time to warm up. There was some imprecise playing in the overture with the brass overwhelming the remainder of the 27-member ensemble. Following Figaro’s first aria, in which the strings were slightly out of step, the playing came together. Strong string articulation and nicely balanced winds accompanied the arias and major ensemble scenes.

Working with period costumes by Patricia Hibbert and Paulina Lozano and Yee Eum Nam’s minimalist, suggestive sets (doors, sofas, trees), director Corrine Hays created a fast-paced, comedic romp. Each of the characters was distinctively framed, the humor never forced or exaggerated. Julia La Vault’s lighting and projections perfectly encapsulated the shifting currents of the master-servant high-jinks.

The Miami Music Festival repeats The Marriage of Figaro (with alternate casts) 7:30 p.m. Saturday and July 26 and 27 at Miami Beach High School.

The Miami Music Festival presents Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazioni di Poppea 1 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday at the Miami Beach Woman’s Club, 2401 Pine Tree Drive in Miami Beach.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Miami Music Festival’s fine “Figaro” serves Mozart well”

  1. Posted Jun 30, 2019 at 10:15 pm by David Presler

    Thank you for taking the time to review our Figaro! I truly enjoyed working with this cast of serious singers – I would say some very bright, committed and talented performers. I am delighted MMF’s productions and looking forward to see what’s next!

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Sat Jun 29, 2019
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