There is a reason that 'The Marriage Of Figaro' is one of Mozart’s most performed operas.
Well, a few really.
It’s fun and farcical, a joyous celebration of life and love, with some rumblings of tragedy to stop it being sickly. And it has smart underdog protagonists, a double-crossing gender twist, and happy, memorable tunes.
Opera Queensland’s new production is a sizzler. The opening is a bustling scene of house-moving that introduces our hero and heroine, Figaro and Suzanna, and sets up the dramatic tension: Figaro is gratified that his master, the Count, has given them this apartment on the eve of their wedding, but Suzanna is suspicious of his intentions. This underlying tension with authority, and the political questions posed, is central to the creative design in this production. The set is both sumptuous and dilapidated, with huge fallen statues and chandeliers suggesting both wealth and a decaying dominance. It’s a brilliant backdrop to the power struggles behind the deceptions and amusing games that go on between the characters, and it allows us to indulge in the lush and light side of the opera as well as prompting us to question how and why social superiority works.
The two leads give stunning performances: Soprano Sofia Troncoso has a clear yet warm tone that brings a well-rounded Suzanna to life. She is ably matched by the rich bass and dramatic abilities of Jeremy Kleeman as Figaro.
Image © Jade Ferguson / Visual Poets Society / Courtesy Opera Queensland
Most of the cast have a strong sense of keeping the characterisation going and the moment as real as possible, so there were only a few instants where the artifice of opera felt intrusive. Interestingly, although the opera is sung in Italian (with English translation perfectly placed just above the characters' heads) when the diction was not so good, the sense of engagement was less for me (as if the purpose became some pure ideal of an aria than a character communicating their story).
The stage direction is excellent and maintains a lot of movement and funny stage business to match the plot, enticing us to follow the intricacies on stage (rather than get frustrated with the slow dramatic progress inevitable in opera) and to just enjoy the singing, gloriously supported by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Mozart is a master of subtle suggestion and musical characterisation: just as the plot twists and turns, so do the melodies – some returning with variations that might bring tears to your eyes. This production is an outstanding illustration of the joys of 18th century opera transported into the 21st. Unless you hate Mozart (and who can really hate Mozart?) it’s highly recommended.
★★★★☆ 1/2. ‘The Marriage Of Figaro’ plays Queensland Performing Arts Centre until 31 July.