In Review: Anderson and Simpson in North Carolina Opera's "Le nozze di Figaro"

"The cast was superb from the beginning to the end. Tyler Simpson's portrayal of Figaro was energetic, playful, and warm; and his rendition of "Se vuol ballare signor contino" set a very high standard for the rest of the opera. . . Alissa Anderson sang a saucy Marcellina and was ideally matched with Hartmann's Bartolo for maximum comedic effect and Mozartian charm." -Classical Voice North Carolina

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"Contralto Alissa Anderson was the rare ​Marcellina who was in no danger of retiring—or who sounded as though she should retire—before the end of the performance. In the hilarious Act One duet with Susanna, Anderson sang ‘Via, resti servita, madama brillante’ splendidly, the voice firm, focused, and filling the theatre with golden sound. Later, her entry with Bartolo and Basilio into the raucous ensemble of the Act Two finale had the force of a sudden tempest, her voicing of ‘Voi Signor! che giusto siete’ bursting forth like a thunderclap. Not even on the most acclaimed recordings of Le nozze di Figaro is Marcellina’s ‘Riconosci in questo amplesso una madre, amato figlio’ in the Act Three sextet sung as well as Anderson sang it in Raleigh. Like Henderson’s Basilio, Anderson’s Marcellina was unfortunately deprived of her Act Four aria, ‘Il capro e la capretta son sempre in amistà,’ but the singer garnered a spontaneous ovation with her adrenalized vow to defend her sex by warning Susanna of looming peril. Even without the aria, Anderson was an extraordinarily enjoyable Marcellina, one who truly sang the rôle. Without a singer of Anderson’s abilities in the part, how many audiences never fully appreciate how enchanting Marcellina’s music can be? . . .

bass-baritone Tyler Simpson depicted Figaro as a man recognized by every person on stage and in the audience as a familiar figure—the quintessential ‘factotum della città,’ to borrow Rossini’s description. Having contributed an affably scheming Bartolo to North Carolina Opera’s 2016 production of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia​, Simpson was a Figaro whose expectation of conjugal bliss gleamed in the Act One duet with Susanna, his measurements of ‘Cinque, dieci, venti, trenta’ cited with glee. Subsequently, more troubling prospects crept into his singing of ‘Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama.’ The jaunty melody of the cavatina ‘Se vuol ballare, signor Contino’ was delivered with robust machismo and resonant top Fs. Establishing his Figaro as the lynchpin of the opera’s action, Simpson brought the curtain down on Act One with a performance of the aria ‘Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso’ that exuded the character’s innate goodness and joie de vivre.

Inserting himself into the fray in the Act Two finale, Simpson’s Figaro painted his proclamation of ‘Signori! di fuori son già i suonatori’ in primary colors that heightened the dramatic significance of the softer pastels of the sotto voce passage with the Contessa and Susanna, ‘Deh Signor, nol contrastate, consolate i miei desir.’ The broad humor with which Simpson limned Figaro’s reunion with his long-lost parents in the Act Three sextet was embodied by the bass-baritone’s delectably droll delivery of ‘Padre mio! fate lo stesso, non mi fate più arrossir.’ Here and in the animated tempo di marcia, ‘Ecco la marcia! andiamo! ai vostri posti,’ however, comedy did not preclude an underlying sobriety from emerging. His Act Four recitative ‘Tutto è disposto’ was phrased with honest feeling, and Simpson sang the aria ‘Aprite un po’ quegli occhi uomini incauti e sciocchi’ not as a hard-hearted indictment of feminine caprices but as an expression of his own wounded pride, the repeated top E♭s mimicking the blows to his love for Susanna. Simpson voiced the larghetto ‘Tutto è tranquillo e placido’ in the opera’s finale with growing anguish, and the relief that his singing of the andante ‘Pace! pace! mio dolce tesoro’ evinced when he realized that he was fooled into thinking Susanna unfaithful was therefore all the more effective. Simpson’s cunning but courteous Figaro was an ideally doting husband for Susanna, a shrewd ally for the Contessa, and a servant from whom the Conte might learn to be a better master of his own life. For the audience, Simpson was a Figaro who made his marriage an event of lasting felicity. Surrounded by colleagues on stage, in the orchestra pit, and behind the scenes whose love and respect for the score were apparent in every second of the performance, he was a Figaro whose nozze was a privilege to witness." -Voix des Arts

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