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La Scena Musicale Online Reviews and News / Critiques et Nouvelles

Visit La Scena Musicale Online Reviews. [Index] Critiques de La Scena Musicale Online

Opera Ontario’s Marriage Of Figaro Showcases Canadians

By Joseph So February 4, 2002

All-Canadian Cast Delightful In Opera Ontario’s Marriage Of Figaro

R Braun. J Such

Hamilton Place, Hamilton, Ontario

January 26th 2002

Andrew Tees (Figaro)
Jennie Such (Susanna)
Laura Whalen (Countess)
Russell Braun (Count)
Michelle Sutton (Cherubino)
David Bedard (Dr. Bartolo)
Odette Beaupre (Marcellina)
Michel Corbeil (Don Basilio, Don Curzio)
Robert Milne (Antonio)
Sinead Pratschke (Barbarina)
Carlo Palleschi - Conductor
Andreas Geier - Stage Director
Michael J. Whitfield - Lighting Designer
Kitchener Waterloo Symphony

It has often been said that Mozart is balm for the voice. To do justice to Mozart, a singer needs a sound technique with good breath support, flexibility, agility, and a legato line. Also indispensable is a certain refinement and elegance in the Classical style, attention to textual nuance, and the ability to communicate the drama written into the music without undue histrionics. So it was gratifying to attend the Opera Ontario Le Nozze di Figaro in which a youthful, fresh-voiced All-Canadian cast fulfilled Mozart’s requirements so splendidly.

R Braun. A Tees

Heading the fine cast was former Canadian Opera Company Ensemble member Andrew Tees in his first-ever Figaro. Tall and imposing with a warm stage persona, Tees possesses a fine baritone which he uses with taste and the requisite style. Perhaps it was opening night jitters or maybe the tessitura of Figaro was a bit low for him, Tees’ voice did not sufficiently project until he came into his own during his big moments in Acts 3 and 4. Opposite him was another Ensemble Studio alumna, Jennie Such, whose Susanna was delectable vocally and dramatically.

The ‘upstairs folks’ include the brilliant Russell Braun as the Count and the up-and-coming Laura Whalen in her first-ever Countess. The most established and experienced of the principals, Braun is the complete package – superb vocalism combined with strong dramatic instincts. Here, his performance was the highlight of the evening. As the Countess, Laurie Whalen had to come onstage and sing one of the most exquisite arias Mozart ever wrote – cold. Her ‘Porgi amor’ was quite lovely though slightly tremulous, but she hit her stride in Act 3 with a truly wonderful ‘Dove sono’, sung with long breath-line and the most beautifully hushed opening phrases in the second stanza. She is a singer to watch.

The supporting casts were all well taken, with Michelle Sutton a boyishly ingratiating Cherubino, David Bedard an unusually youthful Bartolo, and Odette Beaupré a fine Marcellina, though her aria was cut. If one were to quibble, it would be some of the directorial touches by the debuting Andreas Geier. I am used to a more mature, stately, introverted Contessa, who begins her Act 2 aria sitting down when the curtain goes up, outwardly serene but full of inner turmoil. In this production, the Countess moves around like she is Susanna, as a result there is insufficient contrast between the two women. Also, I missed some of the little touches – where is the decanter for the Countess’ wine? Where is the ink well for the quill pen? On opening night, there were far too many little stage accidents, with things falling off tables etc.

The four-act opera was performed with a single intermission, which worked well. The fairly conventional unit set was a bit too narrow, given the width of the Hamilton stage. In Acts 1 and 2, the side panels in the design blocked the sight lines of those seated on the sides of the auditorium. The Malabar costumes were visually pleasing if rather middle-of-the-road. Making his Company debut, Carlo Palleschi conducted a beautifully paced and idiomatic performance, bringing out the lovely textures of the score. Future performances include February 2 at Hamilton Place and February 8 at the Centre in the Square in Kitchener.


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