- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Embassy of Austria has fittingly chosen to conclude its yearlong celebration of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 250th birthday with a nifty little production of the composer’s ever-popular “Le Nozze di Figaro” (“The Marriage of Figaro”). Performances of this holiday treat will be repeated there and at other venues over the holiday season by Bel Cantanti, an up-and-coming local troupe boasting fine young singers and budget ticket prices.

Bel Cantanti accomplishes its surprisingly polished productions with budget sets and sumptuous costuming. But it’s the company’s talented vocalists who really bring each production alive.

Bel Cantanti’s current production of “Figaro” rotates two casts of principals. Friday night’s opening performance at the Austrian Embassy cast Bryan Jackson as Figaro, Meghan McCall as Susanna, Matt Osifchin as the count and Angela Marchese as the countess.

All were impressive. Miss McCall, who seemed a bit understated early in the first act, quickly adjusted to the room’s acoustics, blooming into a vivacious and confident Susanna. Mr. Jackson was equally effective as the swaggering trickster Figaro. Mr. Osifchin’s authoritative bass register made him a count to be reckoned with, while Miss Marchese’s rich, burnished voice, imbued the countess’ signature Act IV aria with an almost palpable poignancy.

In the non-rotating trouser role of Cherubino, the trouble-causing page, Jessica Renfro was a standout, matching a sparkling voice with a surprising talent for physical comedy. In smaller roles, Jeffrey Tarr, Alexandra Christoforakis, Alexandre Kugler, Zachary Nelson and Waka Osifchin also sparkled. The company’s general and artistic director, Katerina Souvorova, accompanied her singers brilliantly on the piano with the assistance of a fine string quartet.

WHAT: Bel Cantanti’s production of Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” (“The Marriage of Figaro”)

WHEN AND WHERE: Friday and Dec. 29, 7:30 p.m., Randolph Road Theater (Old Round House), 4010 Randolph Road, Silver Spring, 301/258-6394 or 703/237-8489; Jan. 5 and 6, 8 p.m., Gaithersburg Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg, 301/258-6394

TICKETS: $30-$35; groups of 10 or more: $25

WEB SITE: www.belcantanti.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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