Once a season the young artists of the COC’s Ensemble Studio get to perform one of the company’s productions on the main stage of the Four Seasons Centre. Last night it was the Claus Guth production of The Marriage of Figaro. I’ve said enough about the production already here and here so let’s cut to the chase.
It’s funny how the emphasis of this show can shift depending who is singing. Last night it seemed very much about the Count and Countess, not least because of a quite stunning performance by Aviva Fortunata. This really was a bit special. From the first notes of Porgi amor to Più docile io sono she was commanding and very affecting. Gordon Bintner’s Count was scarcely less excellent; solid vocally and acting the heck out of the role with an easy physicality. Ian McNeil was perfectly sound as Figaro and Karine Boucher was an interesting, an ultimately effective, Susanna. Her somewhat mature sounding voice threw me off a bit at the beginning but I warmed to it as the evening played out. She certainly convinced in the acting department.
The Ensemble Studio currently has four tenors and there’s no way one can use all of them in Marriage of Figaro (short of transposing Cherubino down a bit) so Charles Sy and Andrew Haji took a rest while Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure stepped up from his main stage role as Don Curzio to the meatier Basilio with good effect. Aaron Sheppard came in for a brief cameo as Curzio. Two understudies got to go on last night. Jacqueline Woodley was a bright sounding Cherubino who managed the gawky acting pretty well and Megan Latham as a convincing Marcellina. The rest of the cast was from the main production and the regular COC orchestra and chorus with Johannes Debus were in the pit. Jennifer Szeto played piano continuo (and I’m still unsure why the decision to go piano rather than harpsichord was made).
This performance seems to have become quite popular with a pretty full and very enthusiastic house last night. It was certainly an impressive advert for the Ensemble Studio.
Photo credits: Michael Cooper