Mozart’s evergreen subversive comedy is a sheer delight.
In the grand Edwardian setting of His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, the plush seats and ornate ceilings are part of the setting of this classic performance of a battle of wits and affections which crosses boundaries of sex, age and class. Director Neil Armfield keeps things fresh with saucy choreography and slightly jarring anachronisms from the props department, but stays faithful to the score and libretto that have entertained so many through the years.
The depicted events all happen in the course of one madcap, chaotic day – the wedding day of Figaro and Susanna. Figaro serves Count Almaviva, who lusts after Susanna and plans to reinstate his feudal right to sleep with the new bride. Susanna is maid and confidante to the Countess whose relationship with the Count is unhappily complicated. Marcellina is an old maid who has a contract with Figaro – if he cannot repay her debt he has promised to marry her, a prospect supported by old Dr Bartolo and the Count with vicious glee. In the midst of this, Don Basilio schemes as he runs messages between secret lovers and Cherubino the page keeps landing in scrapes as early puberty reveals his amorous side. Plots, counter plots, subplots, secrets, surprises, characters hiding in wardrobes, extreme emotions, conundrums – these all combine to make the glorious nonsense of grand operatic narrative, complete with a hidden tattoo of a spatula.
While the narrative’s various farces are entertaining, the magnificence of the music creates the true magic for opera fans. This co-production from Opera Australia and Welsh National Opera, presented by West Australian Opera brings experience, talent and passion to the art form. Conductor Antony Walker brings rich tones from his colleagues in the pit, not only making it appear easily done, but engaging the audience for the entire performance from beneath the line of sight.
The entire cast rejoice in strong stage presence, vocal excellence and exquisite comic timing. With never a false note or sour harmony, the ensemble work together superbly. Emma Pearson as Susanna is captivating with her quick witted retorts, delivered perfectly each time, and her vivid facial expressions convey her emotions. Samuel Dundas’ Count is suitably villainous, his strong features responding to his many reversals with satisfying dismay, in marked contrast to the vacant youthful cluelessness of Fiona Campbell’s Cherubino. As the Countess, Elvira Fatykhova brings angst and turmoil to her character, along with beautifully clear notes to emphasise her predicaments. Fatykhova and Pearson have beautifully paired voices in their duets, beyond accurate performance of their pieces. James Clayton as Figaro sings clearly, with pauses to snack on sweets, delighting in the quick shifts in his character’s situation, expressing Figaro’s reactions as the various plots unfold. Clayton and Pearson have strong stage chemistry between them, underpinning the day’s titular event.
The set and costumes make for a further sumptuous visual feast, with new delights in each of the four acts. Scenery designer Dale Ferguson captures the atmosphere of each location well, dressing sets in palatial splendour and cunningly embedding retro domestic electrical items into otherwise typical operatic scenes. The bedroom scene of the second act attracts admiration for its simple elegance, but the raked stage with retreating pillars of the third act draws the eye with its illusions and perfectly frames Fatykhova as the despairing Countess performs her aria Dove sono i bei momenti. Ferguson’s costume designs go further than distinguishing characters clearly, only to allow further shenanigans through cunning disguises, contrasting the sensible costumes of Figaro and Susanna with the gorgeous finery of the nobility and the festive skirts of the local girls.
Combining together to make a larger than life experience, this West Australian Opera presentation of The Marriage of Figaro is a rare treat and an exciting opportunity to experience top quality, live operatic performance.
West Australian Opera and alcohol.thinkagain present
The Marriage of Figaro
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Director Neil Armfield
Venue: His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth
Dates: 14, 16, 18, 21, 23 & 25 July 2015
Tickets: $31 – $143
Bookings: 1300 795 012