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Published: Sunday, 10/2/2005

'Figaro' comes on strong for opener

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC

Dynamic singing and focused acting combined last night for a strong opening to Toledo Opera's fall season when Thomas Conlin conducted attentive Toledo Symphony members in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at the Valentine Theatre.

The opera's plot is highly complicated. Suffice to say that while Figaro looks to marry Susanna. the Count Almaviva, Figaro's master, plans to have his way with her first.

This, it seems, is an ancient feudal right, one the count plans to reinstate rather than let Susanna get away. Small matter that he is already married.

That is the outer story at least. The inner one is about the nature of fidelity and its opposite: to lover, to ruler, and ultimately to self.

Director Bernard Uzan, who came to opera after an extended career in spoken theater, offered richly developed characterizations.

They were also uncommonly dark. The interactions between the count and Figaro invariably flared as Figaro danced on the edge of insubordination. The countess bristled as well.

Though admittedly much provoked by her husband's blundering attempts at sexual infidelity, the countess' revengeful undertones of Act II were uncomfortably fierce.

Does Mozart require so much fire? Not generally, I think. His ideas go over perfectly well with a much softer touch. Yet the production was dramatically effective.

Vanessa Conlin as Susanna and Kristopher Irmiter as Figaro sang with grace, but their love for one another often seemed cool.

Thomas Barrett was a powerful Almaviva, and rich-voiced Kara Shay Thomson seemed to have found more than her share of her husband's psychological harshness.

Delightful physical characterizations were given by Jason Budd as Bartolo, Victoria Livengood as Marcellina, and Toledo Opera regular Donald Hartmann as Antonio.

Cherubino, the hormone-compromised boy/man who would bed all the world's women were that his luck, was played with particular flair by Angela Horn.

Toledo Opera repeats its production of The Marriage of Figaro at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9 in the Valentine Theatre.

Tickets range from $25 to $90. Information: 419-255-7464.

Contact Steven Cornelius at: scornelius@theblade.com or 419-724-6152.



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