The brilliance of The Marriage of Figaro lies in its cheery dramatization of serious political conflicts in the guise of a Shakespearean bedroom farce. In Portland Opera's production of Mozart and da Ponte's proto-feminist classic, when the bed is front and center, cheeky sex comedy hijinks dominate. Suitors skulk in, under and around it. When the action shifts elsewhere, class and gender issues come to the fore.
Director Stephen Lawless deftly peppers the action with clever, unexpected comic touches and sight gags, along with a few potent stop-action scenes. Sets and costumes are nothing to shout about, but the orchestra, briskly and sensitively conducted by Ari Pelto, shines as brightly as any can in the sound-smothering Keller pit.
Every Mozart opera has at least one aria or duet that will break your heart; Figaro packs at least three, and they come off well here, as does the celebrated Act II finale, which culminates in the brilliant convergence of seven separate rapid-fire vocal lines.
Pamela Armstrong brings pathos and dignity to Countess Almaviva, whose crucial contributions elevate the story beyond comedy and remind us that real women's real feelings are at stake. But the vocal stars are David Pittsinger, a commanding yet vulnerable and hilariously exasperated Count Almaviva, and Jennifer Aylmer, whose ringing voice (including an aria sonorously sung while she reclines in bed) and saucy acting make a suitably spunky Susannah. Their beautiful duet at the beginning of Act III, âCruel girl, why did you make me wait so long?â, is this witty productionâs highlight.
SEE IT: The Marriage of Figaro plays at 7:40 pm Thursday and Saturday, Nov. 10 and 12, at Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, St. Tickets, $20-$135, at 241-1802 or ticketmaster.