Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dream Cast in Chicago Led by Mariusz Kwiecien

[Photos Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago]

We've been focusing a lot on Mozart's "Don Giovanni" lately, but the Lyric Opera of Chicago has assembled a dream cast for their "Le Nozze de Figaro," led by the "Hot Pole" Mariusz Kwiecien's Count. Other performers include barihunk Kyle Ketelsen as Figaro, Danielle de Niese as Susanna, Anne Schwanewilms as the Countess and Joyce DiDonato as Cherubino.

Even with a great cast like this one, Kwiecien always seems to dominate the stage with great acting and his amazing voice. He is indisputably one of the most compelling performers in opera today.

The Chicago Classical Review wrote:

More than most productions, this Lyric cast is dominated by Mariusz Kwiecien as the volatile, philandering Count. One can go a long time before hearing the tortuous Vedro, mentr’io sospiro delivered with this kind of technical ease and forceful malevolence. With his aristocratic bearing and saturnine presence, the Polish baritone owns this role like no other singer today, and his refined, commanding vocalism brought out the Count’s bluster as well as a surprising, touching vulnerability at the opera’s coda.

[Kyle Ketelsen as Figaro & Danielle de Niese as Susanna]

John von Rhein, the classical music critic for the Chicago Tribune, managed to include Kyle Ketelsen's barihunk status in his insightful review:

The "downstairs" servant couple, Kyle Ketelsen in the title role and Danielle de Niese as the maid Susanna, were finely balanced with their aristocratic counterparts, Mariusz Kwiecien as Count Almaviva and Anne Schwanewilms as the Countess.

Ketelsen, playing a good guy this time following his devilish turn as Mephistopheles in Gounod's "Faust" earlier in the season, brought a firm yet flexible bass-baritone to Figaro's two arias, "Se vuol ballare" and "Aprite un po' quegli occhi," in which the Count's manservant railed against the perfidy of women.

Since the comic drama turns on the extended battle of wits between Figaro and the Count — who has mounted an assault on the virtue of Figaro's intended, Susanna — the American "barihunk's" ability to create a virile, likable hero in both voice and manner, while keeping the recitatives crackling, was very much to the point.

[Kwiecien's virile Count]

The Tribune also mentioned that Kwiecien brought down the house on opening night, an occurance that is becoming pretty common with this gifted performer and singer.

Kwiecien made a formidable predator through his baritonal command as well as the vain, aristocratic hauteur he brought to the philandering Count Almaviva. Figaro had all he could do to stay one step ahead of this libidinous bully. "Vedro, mentr'io sospiro," the third-act aria in which the Count vows to punish both servants, brought down the house Sunday.

Performances run through March 27th and you can get more information by contacting the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

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  1. "Kwiecien's virile Count" is actually the same photo of Ketelsen and De Niese. I'm dying to see another photo of Kwiecien's virile Count.

  2. Wow, nice! Thanks! His placement seems different, lol, but very nice.

  3. I heard it broadcast live on Chicago radio, thanks to a link from La Cieca's website. Kwiecien sounded much better as Il Conte than he did as Enrico or Escamillio (both heard on radio broadcast). One of the highlights of the Figaro production was Kwiecien's "Contessa, perdono" - bel canto!

  4. The finest Conte Almaviva today is definetely Simon Keenlyside. I was lucky to have seen him several times doing this role. Vocally in a league of his own, he also looks the part that he plays brilliantly. Keenlyside and Mozart is an irresistible combination.

  5. Definetely? No way, Mariusz is far better vocally (this velvety and comanding voice) and on stage.

  6. Keenlyside has a good 10 years (or more I think, 12 or 13 maybe?) on Kwiecien and their careers are at a totally different place. I like them both a lot, though I prefer Kwiecien at this point in time. I've seen them both as the Count at the Met and Kwiecien just sizzled in a way Keenlyside did not. We'll see what happens when Kwiecien is 50. Who knows if he doesn't crash and burn before that.

  7. I meant to say that I prefer Kwiecien as the Count at this point in time, not in general.

  8. Kwieczien is a bit overrated. He was a boring and vocally disappointing Belcore recently.

    When it comes to the Count Almaviva my vote clearly goes to Keenlyside whose portrayal of the count is magnificent. He is considered of being the finest interpreter of the role right now and it is easy to see and hear why.

  9. Recently? His last Belcore was in 2007 ( february).His next will be in april. To me, Keenlyside is overrated,and pale and boring but "chacun a son gout".