On Jan. 14, Paul La Rosa ’02, Vivien Shotwell ’03, Alaya Kuntz ’04, Brittany Duncan ’05, Brian Katz ’03, Tom Anderson ’06, Richard Giarusso ’00 and guest Kerry Ryer-Parke put on the fourth Act of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro in Chapin Hall.
The performance, organized by voice instructor Keith Kibler, was unusual in several respects. Not only were there no costumes, but blocking and staging were as minimal as possible.
Though operas tend to be characterized by elaborate sets and spectacular visual dramatics, all such propensities were entirely absent. Approaching a complex opera with a minimalist strategy served only to enhance the listening experience of the audience. This performance was indeed a treat to listen to.
In 1786, Mozart was commissioned to write an opera for the national theater. For his assignment, Mozart chose a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponta: The Marriage of Figaro. The Marriage of Figaro tells a tale of a raging infatuation, a true love and the fateful day that took the Court of Almaviva by storm.
Through his impeccable storytelling instinct, Mozart captures the emotion of such a day with his music and, in doing so, presents a challenge to all musicians involved. As a colleague put it, “Your opera simply has too many notes.” And with that, the gauntlet was thrown down to musicians everywhere. Kibler’s students accepted the challenge and succeeded.
Brittany Duncan ’05 graced the stage as a Barbarina. Her competent soprano voice lacked only in volume as she sang a sweet yet sorrowful aria that opened the performance. Her tone carried throughout the hall and set a very high standard for the remainder of the act.
La Rosa played, as Kibler stated in his opening remarks, “the best Figaro I’ve yet worked with.” His clear and focused tone contributed to the clarity he maintained throughout the challenging runs of Mozart’s music. The abundance of notes and words throughout Figaro’s aria makes this a difficult role, but La Rosa handled it with grace and poise. La Rosa’s handsome performance, aided by a commanding natural charisma, was certainly a work of art.
Shotwell played an elegant Susanna. Her expressive aria was enhanced by the compact tone she was able to achieve. While she was no match to La Rosa’s volume, their obvious chemistry made them a suitable pair and a true delight to hear.
Kuntz was an appropriate choice for the role of Cherubino due to her straight and unwavering tone, yet she lacked stage presence when joined by Ryer-Parke in their lyrical duet.
Ryer-Parke, playing the Countess Almaviva, had the advantage of experience, and her mature soprano voice seemed at times to overpower Kuntz’s sound. However, Kuntz held her ground and by the end seemed more Ryer-Parke’s equal.
Giarusso played a commanding Count Almaviva. His dark sound carried throughout Chapin Hall. His deep voice and obvious control of the stage left little to be desired.
Katz and Anderson played Basilio and Antonio, respectively. While their parts were minimal and both lacked in volume on their respective solo lines, their contribution to the chorus at the end of the Act was evident.
On the whole, the ensemble sang together with exemplary professionalism, while simultaneously including the audience in the light-hearted give and take of Mozart’s romantic comedy.
Their joint effort at the end of the Act showcased an incredible balance and general command of the music. Furthermore, their musicianship and overall understanding enabled them to produce a sound that respected each individual line, ultimately leading to a lyrical and subtle conclusion. The delicate attention to detail became apparent as each member contributed equally to create a compelling glimpse into the beauties of Mozart’s Figaro.