Arts & Culture

Crisp pacing, strong voices and a witty direction mark NC Opera’s ‘Figaro’

Tyler Simpson as Figaro and Jennifer Cherest as Susanna in North Carolina Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”
Tyler Simpson as Figaro and Jennifer Cherest as Susanna in North Carolina Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

With “The Marriage of Figaro,” N.C. Opera has gone three for three in producing the glorious trio of stage works Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. As with the company’s “Così fan tutte” (2013) and “Don Giovanni” (2015), this “Figaro” satisfies on so many levels because all the elements have been handled with quality and consistency.

This was evident in the first minutes of the overture, in which conductor Steven Jarvi’s crisp precision and tightly sprung rhythms set an exciting pace that never let up for the rest of the evening. The 33-piece orchestra filled the intimate, 600-seat auditorium with Mozart’s unending melodies but never overwhelmed the singers. Laurie Rogers’ harpsichord commentary cleverly underscored the recitatives between numbers.

All 13 characters had strong, clear voices, allowing the audience to revel in the music’s many beauties without having to forgive any unevenness. Tyler Simpson’s mellow baritone and sly cockiness made Figaro a most engaging character, perfectly paired with Jennifer Cherest’s soaring soprano and forthright perkiness as his bride-to-be, Susanna. Together, they anchored the production with unflagging charm and humor.

Steven LaBrie’s Count Almaviva had an endearing befuddlement at each new trick played on him, paired with an attractive, warm baritone. As Countess Almaviva, soprano D’Ana Lombard brought a patrician elegance to her musical attempts to reignite the Count’s passion.

As the lust-filled teenager Cherubino, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Panara delighted the audience with spirited singing and gender-bending role-play. Donald Hartmann as old Dr. Bartolo and Alissa Anderson as his scheming housekeeper really sang the parts instead of the exaggerated vocals often encountered.

Much of the production’s success came from Matthew Ozawa’s bubbly, inventive stage direction, witty rather than silly. The audience’s constant laughter came from recognizing universal truths in the human relationships on display.

Caite Kemp Hevner’s simple scenic designs (a new co-production with Sarasota Opera) served the action well, the last act’s nighttime garden scene especially enchanting, aided by Ross Kolman’s starry lighting. Glenn Avery Breed’s costuming put the setting in the late 19th century, allowing for more relatable characterizations, especially for opera newcomers.

With this captivating “Figaro,” N.C. Opera continues to prove that the form isn’t stuffy or boring in the right hands.



What: “The Marriage of Figaro,” presented by N.C. Opera

Where: Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East South St., Raleigh

When: 7:30 p.m. March 2; 8 p.m. March 3; 3 p.m. March 5

Tickets: $25-$99

Info: 919-792-3853 or