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There was no doubt by the end of the dress rehearsal of Marriage of Figaro at the Diana Wortham Theatre: the Asheville Lyric Opera cast had meshed in an admirable way. This cast provided trios, quartets and larger groups in which each singer’s voice blended into the totality of the ensemble. The organic structure of one of the greatest operas of all time was acknowledged, the Da Ponte libretto shone through and the sublime music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was honored. This cast clearly had respect for each other, and the result was most pleasing.
Local favorite Jonathan Ross played Figaro, while Andrea Blough was Susanna. As well as operatic training, both of these leads have strong backgrounds in choral singing. This experience was noticeable during the ensembles. Regina Davis, a native of Lake Toxaway, NC was Cherubino. Guest director Jon Truitt played Count Almaviva while his wife Elizabeth Truitt played Countess Almaviva. Daniel Webb was a delightful Bartolo, paired with his co-conspirator Diane Pulte as Marcellina. The cast was rounded out with Scott Joiner (doing double duty as Don Basilio and Don Curzio) and Matthew Boutwell as Antonio.
The orchestra pit configuration seems to lead to a fast decay of the accompanying sound at Diana Wortham Theatre. Since the orchestral strings were few in number, this led to the famous Overture sounding thin and dry.
There were, as there always are, some high moments for the soloists: Mr. Ross singing “Se vuol ballare” in Act 1, Ms. Davis in the exquisite “Voi che sapete” in Act 2, and Ms. Truitt’s emotional “Dove sono i bei momenti” in Act 3. I was very struck by Ms. Davis’s handling of the pants role of Cherubino. This young lady bears watching. But it was in the ensembles that this cast consistently showed its mettle. “Voi Signor, che giusto siete,” the septet that is the finale to Act 2, rang out as well as I can ever remember hearing it. The trio “Pace, pace mio dolce tesoro” in Act 4 was similarly appealing.
The Asheville Lyric Opera’s General and Artistic Director David Craig Starkey, who had given an excellent ten-minute talk regarding the opera before the opening curtain of this preview, appeared after the curtain calls to thank the audience and pointedly remark that the orchestra was staying for some additional rehearsal. One hopes that Guest Conductor Dan Allcott straightened out some of the glitches that were noticeable in this dress rehearsal. At several points, the orchestra had not detected his indications of rubato moments by the soloists, who had presumably rehearsed these with keyboard accompaniment. Particularly glaring was during Cherubino’s “Non so piu cosa son, cosa faccio” in Act 1.
If the orchestra rises to its potential, the two performances of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” to be delivered Friday and Saturday, October 9 and 10, should be even more crowd pleasing than the dress rehearsal.