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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Wayne Hu brings dynamic presence to lead role in ‘Marriage of Figaro’

Wayne Hu brought a dynamic presence to the role of Figaro.

“The Marriage of Figaro” sometimes seems more soap opera, than opera. It’s a delightfully tangled web of class warfare and bedroom follies.

Mozart’s genius embodies the music, and this comic opera is laced with bawdy humor, sexual peccadillos and conniving characters.

Maestro Bill Doherty and the Central Florida Lyric Opera singers and orchestra captured Figaro in all its lustful glory Tuesday in Savannah Center. Wayne Hu’s wide-eyed manic movements and resonating baritone brought the relentless schemer named Figaro to life.

The opera was sung in its original Italian, with selective parts recited in English.
Hu had plenty of vocal support with inspired performances by Mariangel Cestari as Susanna; Jerod Eggleston as Count Almaviva and Ashley Thunder Lowe as Countess Almaviva.

Mariangel Cestari, left, with Ashley Thunder Lowe and Wayne Hu sing in “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Also in the cast: Amanda Caban as Cherubino; Sway Chen as Marcellina and Hailey Dowsey as Barbarina. Samuel  Reynolds and Mark Schmidt played dual roles.
“The Marriage of Figaro,” was actually Mozart’s update to “The Barber of Seville.” It tells the story of a single “day of madness,” when just about everyone in the cast flips out with romantic fever.
Figaro and Susanna open the opera getting ready to wed. Count and Countess Almaviva have been married for a few years. Figaro is the Count’s valet, and Susanna a maid.

Mariangel Cestari tries to hide Jerod Eggleston.

Turns out the Count wants to spend a honeymoon night with the maid before she weds Figaro. It’s a tradition with the good Count, when one of his staff marries — and that does not make the Countess happy.
Jerod Eggleston as the Count, wore a puffed-up white wig, with an equally puffed-up ego and sexual appetite. Eggleston played this character with upper-crust bravado and a dynamic baritone. The Count’s a master at manipulation who gets beat at his own game by Figaro, with a little help from the Countess.
Ashley Thunder Lowe brought grace and humor to the Countess role. Lowe actually once played in a women’s professional football league before turning her interest to opera.
The gifted soprano soared on a solo in the third act, where she recalls her past happiness with the Count.

Mariangel Cestari received plenty of stage time in the demanding role of Susanna. Her movements and facial expressions added humor and emotion to her powerful vocals.

Amanda Caban talks things over with Mariangel Cestari and Ashley Thunder Lowe.

Amanda Caban was a hoot as Cherubino, an amorous page who seems in perpetual heat. Caban wore a couple of disguises and was bouncing around the stage throughout.
Samuel Reynolds booming bass added authority to Bartolo, while mezzo soprano Sway Chen was radiant as Marcellina. Tenor Mark Schmidt was impressive and made the most of his stage time.
The opera lasted nearly three hours and four acts.

The Figaro cast included, from left, Mark Schmidt, Sway Chen Samuel. Reynolds and Jerod Eggleston.

If you’re keeping score, the plot twists to “As The Figaro Turns” goes something like this:
Bartolo (Sam Reynolds) wants Figaro (Hu) to marry his housekeeper Marcellina (Chen).
Cherubino (Caban) is after the Countess (Lowe), the gardener’s daughter (Dowsey)  and Susanna (Cestari).

Figaro suggests the Countess dress Cherubino up as Susanna, and they can trick the Count into going after her.

They set a trap for the Count, but the Countess tells him Cherubino is hiding in the closet. The Count opens the closet to find Susanna.

The Count wants Figaro to marry Marcellina. But it turns out that Marcellina is Figaro’s long-lost mother, and  Bartolo is dad.
Both couples – Figaro and Susanna, along with Marcellina and Bartolo — plan to marry.

The Countess and Susanna set up another trap for the Count, with Susanna asking him to meet her in the garden.
Figaro is upset that Susanna is meeting the Count. She disguises herself as the Countess.
Figaro finds out about it and brings a passionate embrace to Susanna, disguised as the Countess.
The Count sees this and is ready to fight Figaro. But the Count finds out it wasn’t his wife that Figaro was kissing. The Count begs the Countess for forgiveness and they get back together as “the day of madness” concludes.

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