Dallas — The opening night of the Dallas Opera on Friday evening at the Winspear Opera House featured a capable cast and some brilliant conducting. Mozart’s 1786 masterwork, Le nozze di Figaro, received a satisfying performance with Music Director Emmanuel Villaume at the helm.
The patrons of the Dallas Opera looked their best, donning many a tuxedo and a number of interesting if not absolutely stunning fashion selections from the women. The First Night after party was the perfect place to see all of this on display in front of the backdrop of a simply wild DJ dressed in fantastic, bird-like garb set up in what appeared to be a cage. A number of designers who had worked on a fashion show inspired by this season’s operas in an event the previous day were on hand to give additional perspective.
Back to opera.
The first sounds of the well-too-known overture came at a surprise for its brisk tempo. It probably could not have been played much faster. But without any major mishap, the Dallas Opera Orchestra was sounding well put together and polished. Almost every tempo decision made for the rest of the evening was spot-on, allowing a glorious Mozart to emanate from the cast.
The rising curtain revealed dramatic structural elements with ample space for theatrical action. Each act revealed more and more space giving the set itself an interesting role in the development of the plot. The final scene saw the interior structures turned inside-out to bring the audience to the exterior gardens of the country estate.
Giving the illusion of the passage of time from act to act, the lighting was particularly striking. Morning, afternoon, and evening made a convincing appearance and contributed to the climactic atmosphere of the final act.
Kevin Moriarty’s staging was visually pleasing and sensitive to the needs of the score. Comedic movement was just enough to provoke laughter. While a few over-the-top moments, such as the chair scene from Act I played to the audience in more a theatrical way than musical, nothing was cheap or of suspect taste. During the second act, the supertitles were missing. Although not a bother to those familiar with the opera (or the Italian language), the lack of a temptation to stare at the English text actually heightened the awareness of the gestural conveying the dense plot action.
Nicole Car’s Countess Almaviva was luxurious and suave. Her Porgi, amor was purely gorgeous. Paired with the sugary sweetness of Susanna (sung by Beate Ritter), the absolute dichotomy of position and class between servant and countess was made obvious. Figaro seemed summoned to existence through Mirco Palazzi’s energy and pith, which pushed Count Almaviva (sung by Joshua Hopkins) to a point of being detestable, slimy—and perfect.
Emily Fons’ portrayal of Cherubino was wrought with humor, credibly embodying the awkward, lanky, and boyish characteristics of the Count’s young page. Diana Montague as Marcellina, Doug Jones as Don Basilio, and Kevin Langan as Dr. Bartolo were similarly apt at bringing out the unique essence of their characters.
Only slightly confused were certain aspects of the garden scene. For all the hiding in plain sight comedy of the earlier part of the opera, the two huts covered with greenery were at times too concealing and disadvantageous to the plot.
It was some in ways a relief to hear and see this work performed so ideally. All the musical traps set by this opera’s popularity were successfully avoided. This performance was fresh and tilted forward such that one could not refuse hearing it yet again.