ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Review: New and familiar performers fuel FM Opera's funny, memorable 'The Marriage of Figaro'

Talented cast and director have fun with Mozart classic.

102822.F.FF.FIGARO
Alicia Russell Tagert (Susanna) keeps David Hamilton (Basilio) as Mark Diamond (Count Almaviva) sneaks away during a scene from dress rehearsal of FM Opera's "The Marriage of Figaro".
David Samson/The Forum
We are part of The Trust Project.

FARGO — Considering the complications Fargo-Moorhead opera faced staging “The Marriage of Figaro” -- two actors and two cellists having to leave the production during rehearsals -- Friday’s opening night at North Dakota State University Reineke Hall couldn’t have gone much smoother.

With an entertaining and supremely talented cast and whip-smart direction by Maria Todaro , the show didn’t just go on, it went on as if nothing happened.

Todaro showed a knack for comic staging with last spring’s “Cinderella” and doubled down with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s classic. Her creative staging and sharp direction showcased a cast that was as adept at acting as they are singing.

Leading the way were two faces -- and voices -- that FM Opera fans will appreciate getting more exposure. Alicia Russell Tagert stars as Susanna with Lloyd Reshard Jr. playing her financé, the title character. Both alumni of the Gate City Bank Young Artist Program, the rising stars got ample time to shine and delivered throughout the show.

102822.F.FF.FIGARO
Lloyd Reshard Jr. (Figaro) and Alicia Russell Tagert (Susanna) share a laugh during dress rehearsal of FM Opera's "The Marriage of Figaro".
David Samson/The Forum

It may be called “The Marriage of Figaro,” but Susanna is the central character. (The story is a bit patriarchal, if not downright misogynistic, but that’s the 1780s for you.) Tagert’s performance is a revelation, since her previous mainstage show here was “Barber of Seville” in the spring of 2021, taped before an empty house with artists lip-synching under see-through masks to pre-recorded tracks for COVID-19 safety precautions. Unfettered now, Tagert let her bright and effortless soprano voice loose and it was a delight to hear. Though Susanna spends a lot of time on stage, Tagert was plenty ready for her star-turn aria near the end of the play, drawing a few cries of approval. That she sang it so remarkably well only slightly overshadowed her beguiling stage presence as Susanna charms Figaro, hiding in the shadows.

ADVERTISEMENT

She and Reshard sJr. hare an easy chemistry and their flirting throughout the show seemed natural. Reshard towered over most of the other performers but his movements were as fluid and smooth as his baritone

The two may have the starring roles but the best numbers go to Lara Ciekiewicz as the beleaguered Countess. Knowing that her husband, Count Almaviva, has been sleeping around and now has designs on her maid, Susanna, the Countess has two heartbreaking arias which the soprano delivered with convincing pathos. She also gets the sublime scheming duet with Susanna, “Canzonetta Sull’aria,” as they write a letter to lure the Count into a trap and expose his philandering ways. And because it’s an opera, it pretty much happens just like that. And because it’s an opera, after he is outed as a lecher, she accepts his apology with grace and beauty in the final number and everyone is happy and singing.

102822.F.FF.FIGARO
David Hamilton (Basilio) and Mark Diamond (Count Almaviva) vie for the attention of Alicia Russell Tagert (Susanna) during dress rehearsal of FM Opera's "The Marriage of Figaro".
David Samson/The Forum

Mark Diamond as the Count was one of the actors who stepped into the production late and while we wish the actor who had to bow out because of illness a full recovery, the crowd was happy with the replacement. The baritone wonderfully played the Count like a pompous villain from central casting -- complete with a sinister moustache -- while also nailing the vocals, going from belligerent to bewildered. It was his first performance with FM Opera, but don’t be surprised if you see him here again.
Also making a memorable local debut was Edith Grossman as Cherubino, the Count’s randy page who makes passes at just about every woman onstage. It’s easy to write the part off as a comic bit, but the mezzo-soprano opened eyes and ears with nearly every line she sang. She deserves bigger roles.

102822.F.FF.FIGARO
Alicia Russell Tagert (Susanna) and David Hamilton (Basilio) rehearse a scene during FM Opera's "The Marriage of Figaro".
David Samson/The Forum

FM Opera regulars Holly Janz and Anthony Leatham returned as Dr. Bartolo and his housekeeper Marcellina. The roles are smaller, but significant and Janz and Tagert delight in swapping lyrical barbs in the first act.
FM Opera’s General Director David Hamilton was pressed into playing Basilio when that actor bowed out. He makes the most of learning the role late in rehearsals and clearly has fun playing the gossipy music teacher for laughs. If this is indeed his last stage performance -- he’s announced he’s retiring from the troupe at the end of the year -- he’s leaving the crowd wanting more.

Speaking of wanting more, the only thing that went wrong with Friday's opening was the curtain closing on some of the cast taking repeated bows during a lengthy standing ovation. That's not a bad problem to have.

An encore performance will be held at 2 p.m., Sunday.

If you go

What: “The Marriage of Figaro”

ADVERTISEMENT

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Reineke Concert Hall, NDSU

Info: Tickets range from $10 - $80. fmopera.org

CATCH UP ON THE LATEST LIFESTYLE NEWS
The Florida rockers are fourth show revealed for the Red River Valley Fair, which is held from July 7 to 16.
The Minneapolis-based chef's restaurant Owamni won the 2022 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant.
Buddy Holly tribute, comedian Chad Daniels and the return of the Red River Market offer quieter options.
Our February event calendar highlights Comet ZTF and Mars, Venus and Jupiter at dusk and a stellar reminder of spring.
Minnesota Newspaper Association awards "great magazine" in annual competition
Fred Fancher also survived North Dakota’s deadliest blizzard, wrote the state constitution, and became a multimillionaire businessman.
Hit "Lollipop" 39th biggest song of the 2000s.
The newest arrivals in the Fargo area
With its soft and gooey center surrounded by a crisp exterior, kladdkaka is the perfect cross between a brownie and a molten lava cake.
The writer and former radio host last performed in the area in 2017 at Concordia.

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
What To Read Next
The Minneapolis show is the 20th stop of the 41-show tour of her "Renaissance World Tour," bringing a live taste of her latest album to 40 cities in North America and Europe.
The actor, known for portraying Shirley Feeney on the "Happy Days" spinoff died Jan. 25 after a brief illness, her family said.
New facility would be the only indoor park in North Dakota.
Six recipients from around the state recognized for cultural contributions.