Students in UC Santa Barbara’s Opera Theater Program were met with standing ovations and enthusiastic cheers of appreciation this weekend at two packed performance of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro).
The comedic opera showcased the talents of many of the Voice Program’s top graduate students who are studying under renowned faculty members such as Linda Di Fiore and Isabel Bayrakdarian, who was stage director for the production.
Ben Brecher, who heads the Voice Program, was producer and music director. And Opera Santa Barbara’s artistic director Kosti Protopapas served as conductor. The four-act opera, which premiered in Vienna in 1786, weaves a light-hearted narrative of love and forgiveness, while exploring tensions among the social classes and between the sexes.
Julie Davies as Countess Almaviva wowed audiences in her spectacular Act III aria “Dove soni Bei Momenti (Where of the Good Moment”), eliciting long applause after lamenting her lecherous husband’s cruelty, yet professing her continuing love for him.
In Act IV, Tyler Reece as her husband the Count, sang about the wicked and deceitful ways of women - though he himself was guilty of sexual indiscretion - until he finally begs forgiveness from his wife.
The stellar cast also featured Naomi Merer as Susanna, Byron Mayes as Figaro, Kelly Newberry as Cherubino, Molly Clementz as Marcellina, Zach Mendez as Don Curzio/Basilio, Carol Tsai as Barbarina, and Cloe Gentile as a chorus member, and Opera Santa Barbara’s Scott Levin as Bartolo. Several undergraduates performed in the chorus.
In addition to their excellent vocal performances, the troupe’s top notch acting and comedic timing had audiences roaring with laughter. The libretto’s themes seemed to resonate with today’s audience, striking a familiar chord at a time when sexual harassment and the #metoo campaign is in the news, and adding to the knowing groans and chuckles among patrons in the Lotte Lehmann concert hall.