The Marriage of Figaro | State Opera South AustraliaPhotos - Branco Gaica

It is a never-ending wonder that plays and operas written centuries ago are performed today and remain fresh and rejuvenating as they once were. This is often despite their sometimes-outmoded themes. The State Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro is just such a production.

Marrying the talents of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, this opera is based on a political play by French playwright Beaumarchais. The politics behind getting this opera performed in Vienna on May 1, 1786 could have formed the basis of another opera! Da Ponte stripped the play of its political content and wrote it in poetic Italian. Mozart reportedly wrote the music in six weeks.

Obviously the marriage of Mozart and Da Ponte was a happy one as the opera is such a success as well as being the first of three collaborations. They also worked together on Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte. The result of their collaboration on The Marriage of Figaro is a delightful parody that couples the two themes of sex and class. This 18th century story can hardly translate to today’s modern and permissive society, and yet it strikes a chord more than two hundred years after its original performance.

Much of its success must surely lie in the wondrous music of Mozart, the witty words of Da Ponte and the ability of opera companies to convey both.

State Opera – under the original direction of Neil Armfield and the revival direction of Roger Press – has produced a fun-filled rendition, particularly in the first two acts. The stage direction in particular is inspired with small physical gestures emphasizing the humour as the marriage of Figaro and Susanna unleashes and reveals a series of clandestine desires.

Conductor Graham Abbott’s interpretation of the music is excellent, painstakingly paying homage to timing, which is so vital in keeping the pace, while losing none of the colour.

Dale Ferguson’s designs use drapes to great affect except when it comes to scene changes, it seems, which were somewhat slow on opening night. The costumes are apt and ably support the roles of each character.

Adelaide has been abuzz with talk of leading lady Tiffany Speight’s unfortunate last minute withdrawal due to illness, and her replacement Teresa La Rocca. The last-minute soprano is no mere ring-in. La Rocca hits just the right note with her sassy and strong Susanna, particularly in ‘Deh vieni, non tadar’. South Australian David Thelander relishes the title role of Figaro, singing and acting magnificently.

Adam Goodburn is deliciously funny and foppish as the sly rumour monger Don Basilio, and Grant Doyle is striking and strong as the philandering Count Almaviva. Jacqueline Mabardi provides a lovely contrast with as the long-suffering Countess who pines for her husband’s love.

Elizabeth Campbell and David Hibbard add to the comedy of errors with their renditions of Marcellina and Dr Bartolo, and Catriona Barr proves a popular Cherubino.

All characters, including the colorful and droll chorus, (who sadly missed out on a final bow on opening night) add to this comedy-caper opera that reminds us of the brilliance of Mozart.

State Opera South Australia

Venue: Festival Theatre
Dates/Times: 30 August, 2, 4 & 6 September @ 7:30

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