Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Under The Weather

March 07, 2010

Anne Schwanewilms, Mariusz Kwiecien, Kyle Ketelsen, Danielle de Niese, and Joyce DiDonato
Photo: Dan Rest/LOC 2010

Talk about a mixed blessing. Lyric Opera of Chicago’s final production for the season is a revival of Le Nozze di Figaro. It couldn’t be cast any better with a group of singers as pleasing to hear as they were to watch on stage. But there are some significant obstacles to the show’s total success. The good news is that some of these will likely resolve well before the end of the run. But back to that cast – Mariusz Kwiecien, Danielle de Niese, Kyle Ketelsen, Anne Schwanewilms, Andrea Sivestrelli, and Joyce DiDonato. DiDonato’s Cherubino is worth the entire evening in and of itself. Kwiecien is also exciting throughout in one of his best roles as Count Almaviva. De Niese's Susanna is bright and plucky if a little croony at times. If there is any unwelcome guest amongst the cast, it’s a virus. In particular, the one that continues to afflict the superior Schwanewilms who is cast as the beleaguered countess. As on opening night, she was announced as ill but sang anyway and was clearly frustrated by her difficulty, particularly at the end of Dove sono. It was admirable that she came off as well as she did all considering and she got the warmest ovation of anyone the whole evening at the end of her troubled aria. Ticket holders later in the run are in for a real treat when she is more fully recovered.

But there were problems of the non-viral variety as well, particularly in the form of the pacing from conductor Sir Andrew Davis. This may have been a beautifully sung Figaro, but it’s the slowest one I’ve attended in recent memory. Yes, comedy can be slow, but Figaro is not a work that benefits from it. There are many sweet knowing smiles over the course of this four hours, but few actual laughs. I kept longing for the thing to develop some real energy and drive as virtually every note was lovingly cradled by the orchestra and cast to the point of distraction. The production from Sir Peter Hall is as predictable as it is forgettable with one too many dark rooms and earth-toned costumes. The evening is neither bright nor vibrant, but with singing this good overall, it has major compensations. The production runs through March 27.


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