Opera’s most sublime moment, beyond any argument, comes at the end of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,“ when Countess Almaviva pulls the mantle of forgiveness over the “madcap day” of deception, prevarication and disguise, and ethereal harmonies float heavenward. Kent Nagano brings to an end his five-year tenure as L.A. Opera’s music director with Ian Judge’s 2004 solid production, full of curious time values but some endearing hijinx as well.
Set to Mozart’s close-to-perfect 18th-century score is the palace life in, perhaps, the stipulated rococo Seville, but one where the Countess can pour out her frustrations via a bedside telephone and contemporary-looking flashlights light up the nocturnal hanky-panky.
In the opening scene Figaro measures the space for the marital bed, as the text ordains, but directly in front of the room’s double door, which seems impractical. In the second act the page Cherubino sings his lovelorn ballad to the unattainable Countess, who responds by ripping off his clothes.
Given such imponderables, Nagano manages a fleet, nicely balanced perf immeasurably assisted by a well-above average cast. Chief among these, in terms of audience delight, is Lucy Schaufer as the diminutive, pheromone-driven Cherubino: She’s remarkably convincing as a teenage boy, even more so as a splendid, lyric mezzo-soprano.
As Susanna, the long-awaited Barbara Bonney stole hearts as expected. Adrianne Pieczonka flatted a couple of notes in the Countess’ opening aria, but recovered strongly.
New to the group was Ildar Abdrazakov as Figaro, strong of tone and patient with the concocted directorial nonsense. David Pittsinger, the Count in 2004, returns little changed.
Smaller parts are handily dispatched by L.A. Opera indestructables: Greg Fedderly as the insidious Don Basilio, Michael Gallup as Bartolo.
Incomparable masterpiece that it is, some performance of “Figaro” should, by law, be publicly accessible in every city at all times. Next time around in Los Angeles, however, it might do with a time-and-place overhaul. (Perhaps Nagano’s replacement, James Conlon, will take note.) Same Cherubino, however.