The Marriage of Figaro takes place during one crazy day in the palace of the Count Almaviva. Traditionally performed in 18th century garb, Eventainment's production has reinvented and modernised the setting into the offices of a high fashion magazine. It’s Ugly Betty meets Amadeus. This production is pared down to a cast of eight characters who are introduced during the overture in the style of a fashion show. Mr Count (Shai Yammanee), and his wife Rosina Count (Penny Shaw), run the magazine. Figaro (Andrew Conaghan) is PA to the Count and about to marry Susanna (Tamsyn Stock-Stafford), PA to Rosina. Cherubino (James Bell), an intern at the magazine is in love with all the women. Basilio (Tim Schoenmakers) is head of accessories, whilst Marcellina (Sonni Byrne) is head of fashion. Rounding out the cast is Barbarina, the magazines legal eagle, played by Ruth Wilkin.
In this adaptation by Director Chris Kabay and Musical Director Simon Holt, the plot and songs have been cut and tightened creating a shorter, easily understood opera. Whilst the lyrics sung may be the correct Italian, the surtitles are written to reflect speaking today. Hence in one scene you have Susanna exclaiming “oh shit, we’re screwed”, in another the Count saying “Damn, I don’t have my gun”.
The cast worked well together, singing without microphones. They were ably accompanied by a small ensemble consisting of piano (Caroline Badnall), violins (Jasmine Skinner and Dan Russell), cello (Anna Sarcich) and continuo (Simon Holt).
The main auditorium at the refurbished Subiaco Theatre Centre contains a wonderful corner thrust stage which worked well for this production. The set designed by Benjamin Moss and Chris Kabay consisted of three doors and movable dress racks. As a backdrop, oversized cutouts of female figures stood in reference to the magazine setting. The wayward surtitles were projected on the two back walls. With the set entirely in black and hot pink, it created a snazzy, contemporary and versatile setting. Props were minimal, and costumes (by Ali Bodycoat) were sleek business outfits in black, grey and white. The exception to this was Basilio (Schoenmakers in a delightfully camp performance) dressed in white, and Marcellina who sported an overtly trampy fur coat.
Many of the cast are graduates of WAAPA's renowned Musical Theatre Course, with only Stock-Stafford and Shaw coming from opera backgrounds. This was evident in their singing style and ability, both creating pure clear tones and wonderful harmonies. In particular Shaw’s rendition of the aria Porgi Amor (God of Love) where she laments her husbands infidelity was touching and gave me goose bumps. However, whilst I found Shaw’s singing to be the most pleasing, I was drawn to Stock-Stafford and Conaghan who embodied their characters with laughter, wit and enthusiasm.
If you like opera but loath the stuffiness of it, it would be hard not to enjoy this production. The traditionalists of opera may be offended, but I found it amusing, easy to follow and a great interpretation of a brilliant classic.
EVENTAINMENT & yellow glass theatre present
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
Subiaco Arts Centre
19 - 29 July 2007
BOCS Ticketing on 9484 1133, 1800 193 300 or www.bocsticketing.com.au