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Saturday, October 25, 2003

Wolfie Say: Yo Mama

Tonight was the beginning of the opera season for those of us in subscriber group D-2, and things kicked off with a little Mozart, namely The Marriage of Figaro.

Last night at Chili's, my beloved (who does not, in general, attend opera with me) asked what I'd be seeing and greeted the information with an eyeroll. Naturally, I asked what that was about. He informed me that it was a "pedestrian" choice. Drawing on my rich vocabulary of four-letter words, I asked him what the hell he was on about. He started to sing, "Fi---ga---ro, fi---ga---ro." With admirable restraint, I informed him that not only did he have the wrong opera, he had the wrong composer. Besides, I added, Carmen wins hands down for opera snippets everyone knows. He got huffy. He's cute when he's huffy.

The production rocked. We had a substitute Figaro who started out a bit shakey but definitely came into his own by the end. Tenors shunted off to minor roles, fantastic baritone, bass-baritone, and full on bass roles---call me a happy girl. The women singing Susanna and the Countess were superb, Even the trouser role, which often leaves me cold, was well sung. Susanna and the Countess's post-intermission arias had me biting my nails because the range seemed so fucking demanding. Of course on checking, it's not a huge range. It's just that Mozart writes so consistently smack in the middle of the range that when he pushes one end or the other, it's all the more dramatic.

Brilliant little prick, wasn't he? On behalf of all directors and stage managers everywhere, though, I feel I need to deliver such a posthumous pinch for the end of Act III. I can just picture it, "Now what we're going to do here is bring everyone and their Aunt Lucy on stage for a big, festive marriage song. THEN were going to give you 12 bars to get every last one of them off stage. Don't step on the kids. Don't step on the flowers. Keep singing. Get the hell off my stage. Got it?"

The sets were fantastic. All were based on a hexagonal revolve with an intricate, labyrinthine parquet pattern in a subhexagon at the front and plain hardwood floor with parallel slats in the back. Act I was primarily played out in an L-shaped swath cut out of the hexagon by two walls. The back wall of the room had a second "proscenium" that opened through to a balcony within the house and the doors to the Count's room. Two narrow bricked pillars flanking the hexagon effectively gave the impression that we were viewing a slice of life in the house. The busy downstage floor pattern was played up by the sparse set pieces in Figaro/Susanna's new room during this act, and it worked beautifully as a nod and a wink to the audience who necessarily feels a bit overburdened with the extensive exposition.

For the Countess's boudoir, they opened up the whole revolve, but narrowed the upstage portion of it to make a more intimate nook for the bed. They do love red sets at Lyric. Sometimes, it's a bit much, but this one worked. The parquet downstage was largely covered with a circular red carpet with a border of interlinked infinity symbols. The only real clunker in this set was the enormous piece of taffy wrapped in red wax paper that seemed to be hanging from the ceiling downstage.

The garden set in Act IV was lovely, except for the randomly distributed putting greens. There were two metal gazebos set up on either side of the stage, covered over in foliage for the purposes of hiding the roughly 9000 people who toddle on and offstage during all the farce. Their obvious function noted, I still laughed my ass off at the clown-car visual when the Count starts yanking people out to prove that his Countess has been unfaithful.

Despite the lack of boobies and/or simulated fellatio, I'd say this is my favorite season opener so far.

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