Opera Australia’s new production of The Marriage of Figaro proved a great hit with audiences at the opening night at Art Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre.
Wonderful performances by both the cast and the orchestra together with fantastic costumes and sets ensured a most enjoyable evening.
The production highlighted Australia’s operatic talent with all the major roles played by locals.
While the cast is Australian, Opera Australia’s latest production of The Marriage of Figaro comes from Scottish director Sir David McVicar (who also creating a production for Covent Garden in 2006).
McVicar’s production takes place in its original setting in the 17th century. He’s taken the opera back to basics revealing a melting pot of danger, sex and isolation beneath a comic surface. On several occasions the action moves from comedy – with mistaken identities, mis-delivered letters and ridiculous disguises – to something darker. At the same time, despite the often evil intent of the autocratic Count Almaviva, there is a feeling his wife, the Countess, and her maid, Susanna, know what they are doing.
Mozart’s opera is set on the wedding day of Susanna to the Count’s valet Figaro. The Count wants Susanna, Figaro is outraged but has his own problem – he owes money to an old woman who either wants the money or his hand in marriage. The countess is sick of her husband’s wandering eye and wants to win him back. She enlists the help of Susanna and Cherubino, a youth who loves all women. What follows is 24 hours of plotting, duplicity and happy endings!
The performances of the leads – Taryn Fiebig as Susanna, Andrew Jones as Figaro, Shane Lowrencev as the Count, Jane Ede as the Countess and Sian Pendry as Cherubino were all excellent.
The costumes were another highlight. Designer Jenny Tiramani drafted patterns from surviving garments of the period and used materials available during the time to recreate the clothing. The Countess’s costumes were especially stunning. Her bedroom and a grand hall were standout sets.
Although long – at around three hours (plus a 30 minute interval) – this production has much to offer both seasoned opera attendees and `novices’.
Those who know far more about opera than me say this is one of the best productions in recent years. For novices, the story line is understandable, and with lots of twists and turns, the music beautiful and the costumes and sets look great!
Marriage of Figaro is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne until November 28. Visit Opera Australia’s website for tickets or ring 1300 182 183.
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of The Marriage of Figaro as a guest of Opera Australia.
Photographs: Jeff Busby.