Cabell’s Countess makes Lyric Opera’s stellar “Figaro” complete

Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 8:06 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Nicole Cabell is singing the role of the Countess for the final six performances of the Lyric Opera’s “Le nozze di Figaro.””

With a new Countess added to the superb cast of Le nozze di Figaro, the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s season-closing production of Mozart’s comedy is now the complete, evenly balanced ensemble show it deserves to be.

It was clear that the original Countess, Anne Schwanewilms, was suffering two weeks ago on opening night. The German soprano, ailing from bronchitis, labored through two more performances before withdrawing from the production. She was replaced by her cover, Amanda Majeski, last week, and Monday night, Nicole Cabell took up the role, which she will sing for the remaining five performances.

The Countess Almaviva is a newish role for Cabell, one the Ryan Opera Center alumna debuted with Cincinnati Opera last June. Yet judging by the first half I caught of Monday night’s performance, it appears the part fits the American soprano like a well-tailored glove.

The tall, slender Cabell has the elegant presence and regal bearing for the put-upon wife of the philandering Count, and on Monday night she appeared equally at ease with the comic well as dramatic elements. Vocally her high, creamy soprano was heard to fine effect in a lovely if somewhat carefully phrased Porgi amor, though her singing will no doubt become freer and more expressive with repeated performances.

As fine as the rest of the cast was on opening night, they have grown into an even more smoothly blended ensemble. Mariusz Kwiecien remains as imposing and vocally commanding a Count as one is ever likely to hear. Danielle de Niese’s sexy, exquisitely sung Susanna is a fine match for Kyle Ketelsen’s vividly characterized Figaro and Joyce DiDonato’s Cherubino is now a more well-integrated member of the cast.

Leonardo Vordoni, taking over conducting duties from Sir Andrew Davis for these final six performances, fluently led from the pit in his Lyric debut. It will be interesting to see what this young Italian maestro can accomplish when he helms Chicago Opera Theater’s Mose in Egitto next month.

Le nozze di Figaro runs through March 27.; 312-332-2244.

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