Uneven vocalism makes for a routine “Figaro” at Sarasota Opera

March 15, 2015
Maeve Höglund and Philip Cutlip in Mozart's "The Marriage of FIgaro" at Sarasota Opera. Photo: Rod MIllington

Maeve Höglund and Philip Cutlip in Mozart’s “The Marriage of FIgaro” at Sarasota Opera. Photo: Rod Millington

Sarasota Opera has featured Mozart’s music prominently over the decades but successful productions have been less consistent. And so it proved again with Friday night’s performance of Le nozze di Figaro, which offering fitful moments of inspired singing and a young conductor who knows how this glorious score should go. Yet there were also patches of substandard, undistinguished vocalism and the performance on the whole rarely rose above the routine.

As Susanna, Maeve Höglund was a spunky if rather over-caffeinated heroine. Her light instrument is slender even for this soubrette role yet the young soprano sang with dedication and rose to the challenge of ” Deh vieni, non tardar” with a graceful rendering.

Maria Antunez possesses the tall, regal beauty for the Countess and acted well throughout. Yet Friday night, the Uruguayan soprano offered little vocal allure. Her two arias were appalling, with unvaried squally tone, high notes avoided, and a remarkable lack of sensitivity and feeling for this rarefied music. Kristen Choi was an energetic Cherubino but with unrefined vocalism on a student level.

The men fared better. Philip Cutlip’s baritone is on the dry side and lies high for Figaro, but he was a lively and characterful presence throughout with a vehement account of Figaro’s Act IV aria on the perfidy of women.

The towering Sean Anderson contributed a robust baritone and worthy bluster to the Count, with his Act III aria the vocal highlight of the evening. Daryl Freedman was the best of the comprimario roles, with a wonderful comic turn as Marcellina.

Stage director Allison Grant brought plenty of energy but little wit to the traditional staging with everyone trying too hard and too many failsafe comic moments falling flat. Conductor Marcello Cormio showed a sure hand in the pit with well judged tempos throughout, drawing responsive playing from the orchestra, one hapless horn player apart.

There are two more performances of Le nozze di Figaro 7:30 p.m. March 20 and 27. sarasotaopera.org

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