Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Bride Wars

May 17, 2009

Christine Brandes, Ted Schmitz, Mariusz Kwiecien, and Daniela Sindram
Photo: Rozarii Lynch/Seattle Opera 2009

I was in Seattle on business over the weekend, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to catch Seattle Opera’s last performance of this season on Saturday. This was especially the case considering it was a revival of Le Nozze di Figaro. All right, I confess. While I find it utterly inexplicable how anyone would be willing to shell out to see yet another half-crappy La Boheme, I can watch the Mozart operas again and again with nearly complete disregard to the quality of the performance. The first two acts of Nozze are virtually perfect musical theater in every sense - endlessly riveting from beginning to end. Of course when you have a performance as good as those that marked Seattle’s recent run, it makes everything even better.

Seattle keeps things as it always has under the esteemed leadership of Speight Jenkins—with a (virtually) all-American cast more focused on ensemble work than the appearance of superstars in a production that is straightforward and not unpleasant to look at. There are no gimmicks here, just an effort to put together something of good quality. Of course there were perks. Most notably, rapidly-rising star Mariusz Kwiecien sang the role of Count Almaviva as he had in most of the performances this month. He sounded great in one of his signature roles and as always rocked the opera a little bit by raising the question of how any Susannah could ignore his advances over a typically more nebbishy Figaro. Susannah's paramour on Saturday was the very talented Oren Gradus, who has done his fare share of smaller parts both in L.A. and New York, and here deservedly got to step forward into the title part. Like the best Figaros, he appeared to be having a good time. Of the women in the cast, Daniela Sindram’s Cherubino was a highlight. I also rather liked Christine Brandes’ Susannah more and more as things went along, although there seemed to be times when she wasn’t quite in sync with the orchestra, but this late in the run a little sloppiness can be expected.

The orchestra was under the leadership of Dean Williamson, and they gave a worthwhile performance. It wasn’t necessarily scrappy or fervent as these Mozart works can be at their best, but the pacing was adequate. Silly stage business was kept to a minimum by director Peter Kazaras in a minimal period set and a production really not interested in mining anything new or interesting out of the piece. However, it also wasn't a lazy staging, focusing instead primarily on the characters' relationships while not trying too hard to soup up the proceedings for bigger laughs. So, while it wasn't Mozart for the record books, it was still Mozart, so even without the digging, there was plenty to love.



I had exactly that feeling about the Count in the last SF go-round of Nozze: Peter Mattei sang rings around John Relyea and is sexier too. Of course, the Count is already married; Susannah and Figaro both adore the Countess and each other, so....
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