In performance: WNO's young artists in "Nozze"
Young artists shine in a "Figaro" of their own
by Joe Banno
Each season, the Washington National Opera casts the singers from its Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program in a single performance of one of its productions, giving these up-and-comers a chance to shine as an ensemble in the Kennedy Center Opera House.
On Thursday this showcase was "The Marriage of Figaro," in Young Artist director David Paul's own staging on the sets of the company's currently running production. If Paul's genial, by-the-book traditionalism shortchanged the work's revolutionary danger and sexual charge, the production moved well and gave the singers a sure-footed comic framework to shine in.
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Soprano Emily Albrink's pert, pearl-toned Susanna may have been the liveliest, most affectionately detailed performance of the evening, but the coltish Cherubino of mezzo Brandy Lynn Hawkins, the amusingly frowzy Marcellina of mezzo Cynthia Hanna and the winkingly flamboyant turn by tenor Jesús Daniel Hernandez as Basilio all made fine impressions. Figaro and the Count were nicely contrasted -- the former sung with distinctive color and affability by baritone Aleksey Bogdanov, the latter with elegant phrasing and understated acting by baritone Oleksandr Pushniak.
Jennifer Lynn Waters's soprano -- tangy and lustrous, and a size bigger than the voices around her -- thrilled in the Countess's arias. But even singers given the small roles of Don Curzio (tenor José Ortega) and Barbarina (soprano Micaëla Oeste, who is more than ready to take on the role of Susanna) made much of their material. Perhaps the most memorable work Thursday evening, however, was Young Artist conductor Michael Rossi's lovingly sculpted phrasing of Mozart's astonishing orchestration.
-- Joe Banno
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