by Joseph Dalton
THE ALBANY TIMES UNION
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Spying through moist vision a neighboring audience member wiping her own eyes is a pretty good indication that something transcendent and timeless has happened onstage. It's all the more wondrous when the prompting is not a mournful overplayed death scene but two young lovers reconciling as they wrestle about on the ground.
The experience came near the end of the Berkshire Opera's staging of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," Friday night at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Mass. Of course the magic is already there in the opera itself, ready to be invoked by the right musical and theatrical team. What a rare treat that all aspects of this production rise to the work's greatness.
Music director Kathleen Kelly led a warm and fleet account of the score and stage director Gregory Keller accentuated the comedy on stage. Though he places the action in contemporary times -- Cherubino carries a cellphone, Susanna takes down the Countess' letter onto a laptop -- such bits were rare and surprisingly unobtrusive. This is Keller's third successful effort for the company in four years. Let's hope he keeps returning along with the imaginative stage designer Dipu Gupta.
When the seductive and sure voiced baritone Ryan McKinny as Figaro starts measuring the bodice of his fiance and not his wedding bed, you know it's to be a fun night. Quick and confident, McKinny often rattled off his Italian recitatives like an auctioneer. Soprano Suzanne Ramo was his youthful match as Susanna, singing with a crystalline tone and an always well placed upper range.
Soprano Maureen O'Flynn, who was a sympathetic Mimi in last year's "La Boheme," stole nearly every scene in the pants role of Cherubino. This was no cowering boy but a randy post-pubescent ready to take on authority figures or the needs of a woman.
The count and countess Almaviva were played by unusually youthful performers whose voices expanded with emotion and color as the evening progressed. Baritone Liam Bonner was more of a spoiled dandy than an arrogant overlord, while soprano Tamara Wilson emphasized a depressive interior until now and then opening up with startling high notes.
Mezzo Fenlon Lamb and bass Jason Hardy as Marcellina and Bartolo were more memorable for their fashion victim costumes and physical antics than their singing, while soprano Alison Trainer was a lovely Barbarina in flip-flops.
Along with a few couples in formal wear, the distinguished opening night audience included Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and his wife.