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‘Figaro’: A Happy Marriage to Close L.A. Opera Season

TIMES STAFF WRITER

No one seeing and hearing Rodney Gilfry as the Count asking the Countess for forgiveness in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” is likely to forget the moment. It is as sublime as Mozart intended, and all accomplished within the space of only five bars of music.

The moment came at the end of a a strongly cast performance of the work, brilliantly conducted by Evelino Pido on Saturday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The Los Angeles Music Center Opera is closing its season with a revival of the Peter Hall production (for Lyric Opera of Chicago) seen here in 1990 (Gilfry was the Figaro then) and again in 1994.

Thor Steingraber inherited directorial duties this time around and kept the focus on credible characterization and motivation.

Gilfry gave a masterly and serious interpretation of the role, but it was the final moment that rang most true. The baritone is an intelligent, excellent singer and actor, but here he was working against type. He looks too young, too handsome and too upright to make the driven schemes of Mozart’s Count persuasive. It’s hard to see him as someone who would or needs to stoop so low.

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Solveig Kringelborn, who sang the Countess in 1994 (when she was seven months pregnant), repeated her triumphant vocal and dramatic portrayal. The high point of the night was her “Dove sono,” which she sang gorgeously, staying on track, despite premature applause, to repeat the tender opening in a ravishing pianissimo.

Richard Bernstein made a dramatically and vocally vivid Figaro. He had made his debut in the role here in 1994 and since then his career has been progressing rapidly. He had a tendency to over-project the character, but he usually earned the right to luxuriate in his stage electricity.

Inva Mula, who had made such a strong impression as Norina in Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” here in 1995, sang Susanna with fluty purity and focus, though her dramatic impact was a bit mild.

Many company stalwarts upheld high ensemble standards in the supporting roles.

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Paula Rasmussen sang Cherubino sweetly, but it was her imaginative projection of an ardent poetic nature that captivated attention and gave a reason for the Countess’ rising interest--despite herself--in the adolescent.

Suzanna Guzman made a complex Marcellina, evoking both pathos and comedy. This Marcellina really is in love with Figaro, and the news later that he is her son sends her reeling.

Sounding vocally refreshed recently, Jonathan Mack made Don Basilio an engaging character. Both Marcellina’s and Basilio’s Fourth Act arias, often cut, were included without making an already long evening feel too long.

Michael Gallup sang and acted Dr. Bartolo with comedic flair.

As Barbarina, Elissa Johnston looked like Mary Pickford, but sang with appealing weighty seriousness. Jamie Offenbach smartly avoided drunken cliches as Antonio. William George was a fine Don Curzio.

Proving that his impressive conducting of “Don Pasquale” here in 1995 was no fluke, Pido directed the L.A. Opera Orchestra with a similar sense of vigor and lightness, always knowing when to press forward and when to let the music breathe and blossom. Joy.

* Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” will repeat with the same cast and conductor on Tuesday, Thursday, June 17, 19 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. and June 15 at 2 p.m. at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave. $23-$130. (213) 365-3500.


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