4 ½ stars
Review by Laura Money
Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is the quintessential opera, a big title in the opera world with a tradition that spans the ages and an overture that conjures the majesty and experience of a night at the opera. WA Opera’s 2015 season reflects this classic approach to opera favourites and comedies. Off the back of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville where many of Figaro’s characters were introduced, Neil Armfield’s production of The Marriage of Figaro brings the hilarious characters back into a larger than life complicated plot-line riddled with the minutiae of the ‘opera buffa.”
In the grand setting of His Majesty’s Theatre the eighteenth-century stylings of the set fit right in. The ‘curtain’ and backdrop consists largely of a crumpled brown piece of cloth that closely resembles the vellum parchment the original manuscript would have been written on. Alongside some opulent rooms, sweeping windows and hilarious hidey-holes that only add to the farce later, there are also some items that are seemingly incongruous to the era – an ironing board, electric iron, electric vacuum cleaner, and 60s style curling machine – which only adds to the kitsch appeal of the production. It is clear that the props are a cheeky nod to the humour of the whole thing.
In fact, humour is the main drawcard of the show, as demonstrated by the amazing talent of the actors. James Clayton shines as Figaro, a role he sings effortlessly and acts perfectly. Clayton’s Figaro sparkles with the wit and cheek of an eighteenth century Bugs Bunny – at one point he halts the harpsichord player to complete eating a chocolate bon bon. Emma Pearson and Elvira Fatykhova are the perfect comedy duo as Susanna and her mistress and of course Fiona Campbell is flawless in the pants role of Cherubino – the hormone-driven young buck in love with anything in a skirt.
Armfield’s directorial vision brings together the tradition of a classic opera with all the calamities and hilarities of a traditional work and the modern world of self-awareness and kitsch in the perfect marriage of productions. As I overheard a conversation between two ladies in the line to the bathrooms saying that opera is all about the experience – it’s not just the show itself, it’s the whole thing from being in an opulent theatre to seeing the hallmarks of Mozart’s era. The Marriage of Figaro absolutely embodies the traditions of the opera giving it a thoroughly modern twist that means the ‘experience’ of the opera will continue to live on.
The Marriage of Figaro is on at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth from the 14th – 25th July 2015.