Drastic cuts in state funding forced the Peabody Conservatory to stage Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" without sets, save for a few simple doorways and furniture.
But make no mistake. In every other way, this is a spirited, professional production which well serves the reputation of the nationally known music school.
Much of the credit for that success, surely, must rest with Roger Brunyate, who has made Mozart a staple of Peabody's opera program since becoming its artistic director in 1980. This "Figaro" is functional but elegant -- and after seeing the "hip" vagaries of Peter Sellars' Mozart operas, Mr. Brunyate's vision is infinitely more attractive.
One of his particular gifts is an ability to capture mood when the characters are silent, with movement and music alone. In the march of Act III, for instance, the exquisite inevitability of his direction made for one of the opera's best dramatic moments.
"Figaro," of course, is one of Mozart's most intricate operas, justly famous for the depth of characterization and its many complicated vocal ensembles. The cast of the Peabody's production rose to the work's most formidable challenges in fine fashion, each showing great skill both alone or in concert.
Among the many fine performances Thursday night -- the production is double cast -- were Bradley Hayes (Figaro), who impressed with his natural physical manner and vocal suavity; and Derek Anthony (Bartolo), for the subtle nuance he brought to his role.
Also commendable were Darci Bultema (the Countess), Jeffrey Buchman (the Count), and Julianne Borg (Susanna).
Particularly outstanding was the accompaniment given these young singers by the Peabody Orchestra, which is sounding every bit professional these days. Its recently appointed conductor, Hajime Teri Murai, led a distinguished reading that was stylish and impeccably paced.
"The Marriage of Figaro" continues tonight at 8:15 and concludes with a matinee performance tomorrow at 3 p.m. Call 659-8124.