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Review: Central City Opera opens 2014 summer season with The Marriage of Figaro

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The Marriage of Figaro

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Central City Opera continues its story of Figaro, the world’s most famous barber, in this season’s offering of The Marriage of Figaro, an opera buffa written in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte and scored by Wolfgang Mozart.

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Last season we saw Figaro help Count Almaviva woo Rosina away from her grumpy old guardian and betrothed Dr. Bartolo in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Now, Figaro has become the count’s personal valet, and we meet him again as he is preparing to wed his true love Susanna, the Countess Rosina’s maid.

What ensues during one “crazy day of torment and folly” stems from the Count’s insatiable womanizing. He has grown weary of his wife Rosina and is trying to seduce the lovely Susanna, despite his reversal of a so-called rule that the master of a servant has the right to sleep with his servant’s bride on their wedding night.

Both operas are based on two comedies written by French playwright Pierre de Beaumarchais in the 1700s. When Da Ponte wrote the libretto, he eliminated much of the Frenchman’s political rants and the result is a light-hearted, sometimes over-the-top comedic opera with seduction, jealousy and finally, forgiveness, as its main themes underlying the the social order of the time.

But it’s complicated. This is one opera where reading the libretto beforehand helps to sort out the characters and who is in “lust” with whom. Think of the upstairs-downstairs scenario as a bawdy Downton Abbey.

Central City’s inspired cast does a magnificent job of unraveling all the schemes, plots and relationships in this plush and playful production of Mozart’s masterpiece. Director Alessandro Talevi placed the opera in 1920s Spain instead of the 18th century when it was written, reflecting the class struggle of the 20s. The sets in the count’s mansion by Madeleine Boyd are rich and inviting, and the costumes are authentic. You may recognize many of them from the TV series Downton Abbey. Costume designer British-born Susan Kulkarni was costume assistant for the British show and was able to score the hand-me-downs for this production. The rest are originals from the period.

Each of the artists gives an all-out performance, in both singing and acting; there’s not a weak link in the bunch. Soprano Anna Christy as Susanna is charming; bass-baritone Michael Sumuel in his CCO debut is a fine Figaro. The other main characters are Countess - Sinéad Mulhern; Count - Edward Parks; Bartolo - Thomas Hammons; Cherubino - Tamara Gura; Basilio - Joseph Gaines; Marcellina - Claire Shackleton.

The four-act opera last three hours and 15 minutes with one 20-minute intermission.

The remaining performance schedule for The Marriage of Figaro is as follows:

Matinees are at 2:30 pm: July 4, 6, 8, 15, 16, 20, 22, 26
Evenings at 8:00 pm: July 10, 12, 18

For tickets, visit www.centralcityopera.org or call 303-292-6700.

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