The Marriage of Figaro

Presented by Co-Opera: Opera on the move
Reviewed Sunday 22nd May 2011

Venue: Thomas Edmonds Opera Studio, Adelaide Showgrounds, Goodwood
Season: Adelaide season concluded
Duration: 2hrs 30min incl interval
Tickets: adult $45/conc $40/under 30s $29
Bookings: See the web site for booking details – varies with every location on the tour.

Co-Opera has been touring this production of Mozart’s opera buffa, The Marriage of Figaro, (Le nozze di Figaro, written in 1786) through many locations around Australia since the beginning of March, and they have polished it to perfection over that time. Add their cabaret style seating, to which you bring your own supper and drinks, making it a very social occasion as well as a cultural one, and you have all the ingredients for an unbeatable night out.

Figaro, servant to Count Almaviva, is about to marry Susanna, servant to the Countess Rosina. The Count lusts after Susanna and decides to reinstate the privilege of the lord of the manor to spend the wedding night with any new bride. This was known variously as the jus primae noctis (the right of the first night), droit de seigneur, droit de jambage or droit de cuissage.

This opera concerns the Count’s attempts to have his wicked way with Susanna, Figaro’s attempts to thwart him, the Countess’s attempts to keep them apart, Susanna’s attempts to avoid him and, just to confuse things further, the young page, Cherubino, flirts with the Countess, who is his godmother, with Susanna and, for that matter, with any other female with whom he comes into contact.

Unfortunately for Figaro, Marcellina, an old woman from whom he has borrowed money, demands he repay the debt or marry her. She is supported in her claim by Basilio and Dr. Bartolo. As he does not have the money, things look bad for Figaro, and the Count thinks that his chance for an intimate encounter with Susanna is within his grasp. Things, however, are not all as they appear. Fortunes rapidly change, secrets are uncovered and, eventually, all ends well, except for the Count, who is hoisted with his own petard.

Mozart’s opera is, of course, based in Commedia dell’Arte, with the stock characters easy to recognise and all of the expected confusions with mistaken identities, hectic chases, physical comedy, and the whole thing delivered at a great pace, with lots of music and song. The company injected enormous amounts of energy and fun into this production, totally captivating the full house audience.

Mozart’s opera is filled with familiar, very popular melodies and plenty of comical moments and, while Musical Director, Brian Chatterton, takes care of making sure the musical side is impeccable, Director, Tessa Bremner, ensures that there is lots of enthusiastic involvement in the physical side of the work, development of the characterisations, and bringing out the comedy. From the moment that the unmistakable opening notes of the overture are sounded through to the final applause this is one continuous source of pleasure.

Nicholas Cannon and Karen Fitz-Gibbon and superbly paired as Figaro and Susanna. They make superb young lovers on the threshold of married life who find themselves the subject of manipulation and unwanted attention. They both have a good feel for comedy as they cleverly extricate themselves from the mess, jealously showing nicely in their performances but with their true love beneath, seeing them through.

Jeremy Tatchell takes the role of the Count, with Lynette Harris is his long suffering Countess, and this is another great pairing, filled with comic invention coupled with their wonderful singing. The give the clear indication that they are at the top of the class structure in their demeanour and their interaction as they suspect each other of real or suspected infidelities is classic.

A stand out performance comes from Kate Bright, as the young page, Cherubino, not only for her magnificent voice but also for the lively characterisation, giving us a ‘naughty but nice’ youngster who is as bright as a button, but with a knack for getting into romantic trouble.

Deborah Johnson, as Marcellina, Gérard Schneider, as Basilio (and Don Curzio) and Lachlan Scott, as Dr. Bartolo generate a good many laughs, obviously having fun playing their grotesquely funny characters, as does James Moffat as the gardener, Antonio.

Lisa Cannizzaro is delightful as Antonio’s daughter, Barbarino, another object of Cherubino’s desire, who reciprocates the feelings, and there is added charm from Sarah Jane Pattichis who joins her as the other flower girl.

Brian Chatterton, leads a very fine small orchestra, also providing the continuo, injecting life and excitement into the richly rewarding music. The costumes are brightly coloured and stylised, as are the wigs, and the stylish set works well, with Joel Beclu’s lighting playing a large part in delineating the various locations.

There is not a weak link or a dull moment in this production from this dedicated, enthusiastic and extremely talented group of people. If you ever have a chance to see a Co-Opera performance, do so.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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