Opera Review: The Marriage of Figaro

An outstanding array of talent

An outstanding array of talent

Presented by: State Opera South Australia
Reviewed: 7 November, 2023

From the first immaculately precise few notes from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, led with spirit and heart by Conductor Tobias Ringborg, you know you’re in for a very special night. This night at the opera, with that old favourite of opera-goers, The Marriage of Figaro, has been given a 21st century makeover by Director Nicholas Cannon, ably assisted by the very talented set and costume designer Alisa Paterson. This show literally and metaphorically sparkles from beginning to end sometimes with the addition of real glitter, but the real stars of this show are the predominantly Australian cast and fully Australian production team.

Not only has Nicholas Cannon done a sterling job of dragging this wonderful opera kicking and screaming (in a very good way) into the 21st century, his casting nous has put together a really wonderful cast of singers for this outstanding addition to the State Opera’s repertoire. I don’t think this will be the last time we see this version onstage. Word of mouth will see to that.

The cast, so many of them local talent, were made for these roles. Jeremy Kleeman was born to play Figaro; he shines in the role and his several renowned arias prove he is a force to be reckoned with in the world of Figaros. He was accessible and engaging from beginning to end and his work with a tape measure probably can’t be rivalled. Jessica Dean’s Susanna is exquisite. She brings a freshness and drive to the role that brings the audience effortlessly into her world and onto her side. Nicholas Lester has the perfect bearing and hauteur for the Count. I wouldn’t trust my wife with him! Petah Cavallaro’s Countess – breathtaking. She had the audience eating out of her very well-manicured hand. Emily Edmonds’ Cherubino was copy-book – and she didn’t copy anyone. Her performance was full of cheek, innocence, bravado and a lot of testosterone. She almost outdid the Count for conquests… and that voice! Pelham Andrews’ Dr Bartolo was a lesson in how to make an outstanding impression with a very limited stage time but he had to fight for it with Cherie Boogaart who was threatening to eat the furniture in an interpretation of Marcellina that you will never be able to unsee – classic! Mark Oates’ Basilio – copybook camp. Jeremy Tatchell’s Antonio, verging on hysterical for the audience and the opera. Lucy Stoddart’s Barbarina, exquisite, both in voice and characterisation. Jiacheng Ding’s insouciant lawyer, very amusing. Jessica Mills’ first bridesmaid wasn’t going to be missed by anybody and Eric Chmielewski’s Security guard was a copybook lesson in how to steal the limelight without opening your mouth.

The opera chorus is as alive and fully engaged in the work at hand as they always are. They are an asset too often ignored in what makes a good opera great. They worked with accuracy, precision and great focus to aid in the success of this very adventurous and courageous reimagining of The Marriage of Figaro.

This really is a great start for the new guard at the opera company, led by the renowned Dane Lam. It is a very clever move to engage a fully local production team: Nicholas Cannon, director, Ailsa Paterson, designer, Nigel Levings Lighting designer and Anthony Hunt, Chorus master, with that fully Scandinavian (but we’ll keep him as Australian) conductor Tobias Ringborg, and to have picked up the baton from Stuart Maunder and built on the wonderful legacy he has left to the State Opera Company. Bravo, this is a production that builds on the very bright future of the State Opera Company.

It is traditional to review the outstanding arias in an opera performance. That is impossible to do in this review as every character had a moment of brilliance in their work. It is an outstanding array of talent that walked on stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre tonight.

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

Photo credit: Andrew Beveridge

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Season: November 16 – 25, 2023
Tickets: From $67

Read our interview with Nicholas Lester, who plays The Count in The Marriage Of Figaro HERE .

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