The Arizona Opera’s 2009/2010 Season in Review

This review aired on KBAQ April 26, 2010


Symphony Hall
Phoenix, AZ

The Arizona Opera’s just ended a particularly impressive 2009/2010 season. This past weekend’s wonderful “The Barber of Seville” was playfully staged and impressively sung featuring a talented baritone who will soon be starring in major opera houses throughout the world. But more on “The Barber of Seville” later.

With this striking season, Arizona Opera is clearly a leading regional American opera company. While Arizona Opera will never be able to offer the grandly scaled Metropolitan Opera or the San Francisco Opera productions, the local operas are consistently well sung and are always expertly played by the fine Arizona Opera orchestra. Most impressive, the productions always feature the finest up and coming opera singers.

This season, I saw three of the four opera productions, missing only the acclaimed staging of Richard Strauss’ “Salome.” I also missed “A Concert of Signature Arias,” a filler attraction when economics forced the company to skip doing five fully staged operas.

Based on the three productions, Arizona Opera produced a grand season. The opening “Cosi fan tutte” was finely sung although the stark and colorless production coupled with creaky staging failed to provide the opera with the expected lush opulence necessary to support Mozart’s lovely score. “La Boheme” brought fine singers but the awkwardly designed set failed to capture the opera’s second act splendor and contrast it with the harsh reality of the austere and impoverished dwelling of the leading characters. In both operas, the Arizona Opera’s own orchestra was brilliant offering subtly telling orchestral renditions of Mozart’s lovely musical score and Puccini’s richly melodic ensembles and stunning romantic arias.

This year’s best production was the playfully fun and brilliantly sung “The Barber of Seville.” This fine production of the comic treasure with Rossini’s tuneful score would be great in any world opera house. Joel Revzen, Arizona Opera’s artistic director, conducted a radiant performance. The orchestra played with impressive finesse and remarkable style. Couple the exemplary orchestra with Bernard Uzan’s comically inspired staging and masterful singing, resulting in an amazing operatic achievement. Most remarkable was baritone Marian Pop’s outstanding Figaro. His big, soaring voice commanded attention immediately and his playful acting was great fun to watch. Pop has already established quite a reputation and it won’t be long before he will be starring in the world’s leading opera houses. Also impressive was Patricia Risley’s lively and beautifully sung Rosina, Victor Ryan Robertson’s funny Count, and Peter Strummer’s sternly hysterical Doctor.

We are lucky to have Arizona Opera as the excellent regional opera company it has become. Next season marks the troupe’s 40th anniversary. For tickets to the 2010/2011 season, call the Arizona Opera box office at 602-266-7464 or order online at The 2010/20111 season includes productions of “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Carmen,” “Turandot,” “Otello,” and “The Abduction from the Seraglio.”