Bravo! Berkshire Opera’s “Figaro” at The Colonial
Suzanne Ramo and Ryan McKinny, photo by Nick Atlas
My highly-cultured friend, the Mozart Maven, is a regular at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center so I hesitated asking her to drive an hour to Pittsfield to see the Berkshire Opera’s production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (which has two more performances on August 22 at 8PM and August 24 at 2 PM.) She was duly impressed by the intimate 1903 Colonial Theatre, a Gilded Age relic which has been so grandly renovated (though not the utilitarian lobby.) She smiled during the familiar overture which was played with sweet clarity and verve by the orchestra led by Kathleen Kelly. She approved of the spare, graphic sets (by Dipu Gupta) and the decision to costume the singers in contemporary clothes (by Charles R. Caine.) And she thought that having character send text messagea and use a laptop were clever devices to give the 1786 opera a contemporary spin.
Figaro is an easy opera to love. It’s comic and the music is as pretty and lyrical as music can be. The Berkshire Opera has supertitles so you don’t need to read the libretto beforehand or know Italian to understand perfectly what is happening on stage. The casting is excellent: Ryan McKinney is a charismatic Figaro and Suzanne Ramo is a suitably coquettish and troubled Susanna. Liam Bonner is full-voiced Conte Almaviva and Tamara Wilson sings the Contessa beautifully but, alas, she is not perfectly suited to the role. The part of Cherubino—an oversexed adolescent who is always played by a woman—is dressed like a butch lesbian in this production (or, at least, that’s how I saw the costuming as well as the direction), which added a frisson of gender-bending lesbian subtext to the role of Cherubino who was played marvelously by Maureen O’Flynn. The Mozart Maven heartily approved: She found the Berkshire Opera’s production engaging, entertaining and exhilarating.