If you loved The Barber of Seville during the 2018 Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre season – and who didn’t? – make a beeline for the final performance of the current production of The Marriage of Figaro. It’s another great comic opera with the same hilarious characters, equally beautiful music, thrilling performances and gorgeous costuming.
So what’s not to love?
The plot of The Marriage of Figaro has too many twists and turns to explain briefly; or even at length, for that matter. But this classic by composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has all the traditional gags we’ve come to associate with comic opera. There’s attempted seduction, adultery, jealousy, mistaken identity, a little cross-dressing and that most rare of operatic elements, a happy ending. It’s a feel-good experience that can melt the heart of even the most confirmed opera-hater (like my wife).
At first glance, The Marriage of Figaro appears to be proof that a sequel can be as good or better than an original artwork. The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini makes light of a romantic triangle using characters borrowed from an earlier theatrical trilogy by French playwright Pierre Beaumerchais. The setting of The Marriage of Figaro is about a decade later, when the same characters have aged but not necessarily matured. That makes it a sequel, right? But The Marriage of Figaro was written and premiered about thirty years prior to The Barber of Seville. That would mean that The Barber of Seville is actually the sequel. Or is it a prequel? Who knows? Or cares? Just enjoy the show.
Fortunately, there’s plenty to enjoy in The Marriage of Figaro, including the aforementioned dazzling costumes, lavish set designs and brilliant orchestration under the direction of conductor Nicolas Giusti. Best of all, the opera gives local audiences the opportunity to fully enjoy the talents of UFOMT performers previously seen in minor roles in this season.
Director Suzan Hanson gets marvelous performances from her entire cast, especially Rose-Antoinette Bellino and Bridgette Gan. Both women are impressive vocalists and their superb acting is just frosting on the cake.
Ms. Bellino is perfectly flirtatious and saucy as Susanna, the mischievous maid who is always very much one step ahead of her fiancé Figaro and the amorous Count Almaviva.
As Rosina, the Countess Almaviva, Ms. Gan nicely balances what could have been contradictory roles as a tragically estranged spouse and a playfully amused object of a juvenile suitor’s affections.
Although virtually unrecognizable in drag, Marianthi Hatzis is equally memorable in a gender-bending role as the love-struck page Cherubino.
As baritones typically do, the male cast members of “The Marriage of Figaro” deliver solid performances.
Christopher Holmes convincingly portrays the scheming Count Almaviva, an aristocrat who thinks he’s seductive, but isn’t fooling anyone but himself.
As Figaro, Brandon Henderickson makes the most of what is a surprisingly small role given the opera’s title.
The only returning cast member from The Barber of Seville, UFOMT veteran Kevin Nakatani, is amusing as Don Bartolo, a meddling physician who arrives intending to give away a bride and ends up marrying her instead.
Sadly, your last chance to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan is the matinee performance on Friday afternoon.