“The real strength of Friday’s performance was the tightness of the comedy—the actors played off each other delightfully, and every moment seemed to land perfectly. Chief in this department was Isabel Leonard, who is now a reliable old hand as Cherubino, stealing the show every time she takes on this role, and drawing constant roars of laughter with her antics as the randy, willful teenager. The vocal part doesn’t feature the most interesting qualities of her instrument, but she was at her best nonetheless, her singing easy, focused, and fluid.”
Isabel Leonard is probably the best Cherubino in the business, hands down. She disappears completely into the body of the “fanciul.” Her Cherubino is far from an innocent however, exuding sex at every turn, even with a suggestive and sly smile when she states at the end of her aria “Non so piu cosa son, cosa faccio” that “parlo d’amor con me” and then finding moments to just flirt and misbehave with every single woman onstage. The entire first aria saw her make moves on Susanna as if he could not keep his hands off her. It was rather teenage in its approach with the usual cliché moves and such. The singing throughout the aria embodied this frenzied hormonal longing, even to the point of emotional instability. While most of the aria saw Leonard sing with bright sound and forward momentum, the end of it slowed down as she considered Cherubino’s loneliness, her face to the ground, the sound fading to nothing. By the time he sings for the Countess, Leonard imbued “Voi che sapete” with timidity in the first part of the aria, her Cherubino stiff and nervous as he sang that opening stanza. But as the aria progressed, one could sense the transformation, the easing of the body and the charming look that Leonard gave Pérez. Cherubino sat next to the Countess and sang the reprisal of the aria more intimately but with greater nuance and beauty of phrasing. The boy had turned into a man in that moment and even with the fun and games that came in the cross-dressing thereafter, there was a confidence in the character that only developed from scene to scene. This all came to full fruition in the final act where Leonard’s Cherubino not only sang with fuller and more potent sound, but was unstoppable in his flirtation with the woman throughout. Leonard’s interpretation of the character in this production has remained consistent throughout the years, but the shape of her Cherubino is far clearer in its execution. She is an all-encompassing artist that doesn’t need to revert to massive gestures to be truly masterful and this Cherubino is perhaps the greatest example of said genius.