Opera Santa Barbara’s bold, energetic production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro delivered great singing, fine playing, and a canny, legible staging of all the many wonderful twists and thrills in this unusually challenging and intricate libretto. As Figaro, Brandon Cedel established a strong presence from the start, as did Karen Vuong in the role of Susanna. Their opening duet about the placement of Susanna’s bed includes a handful of ringing bells that cleverly illustrates not only the plot point they are discussing — that the Count is now in pursuit of Susanna — but also that this will be an innovative orchestral score, with the music taking a much more active and unpredictable role than is common in more conventional operas. Conductor Valéry Ryvkin and his orchestra pulled it off with uncommon grace, and once it was over, the spell of Mozart’s Figaro had been cast.
The Count was sung by Jason Detwiler, and he made a very effective villain, tempering the aggressive, demanding style of the character’s vocal lines without losing the sense that the Count can only feel shame in short bursts. As the Countess Almaviva, Rhoslyn Jones kept the audience in a wonderful kind of suspense — would this proud, regal woman lose her cool? Her aria “Dove sono” in Act Three was particularly memorable and bittersweet, as she recalls the good times with the Count even as they seem to have definitively slipped away. It’s only in Act Four, and through a devilish game of bait and switch, that she gets her man back, but on terms that leave more questions than answers. The finale, which is full of the most strenuous ensemble work, came off brilliantly in this very satisfying Marriage.