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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | September 19, 2021

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Marriage of Figaro: Romance and Revolution

Marriage of Figaro: Romance and Revolution
Claire Matthews

The Marriage of Figaro is like an opera version of the ultimate rom-com, complete with tangled relationships, revenge and chaos.

Directed by Opera Queensland’s artistic director Patrick Nolan and conducted by Dane Lam, The Marriage of Figaro brings together a cast of Australia’s finest singers, the QSO and Opera Queensland Chorus.

Opera Queensland presents a refreshing retake on Mozart’s classic opera. This is the opera that changed the direction of the art form. Its enduring appeal lies in its richly drawn characters, who struggle with relatable issues. Set in a crumbling world, the story resonates as much with audiences today as it did in 1786.

In the new production, set designer Marg Horwell has captured a sense of a fractured society through creating a series of incomplete spaces in a state of decay. It begins with Figaro and Susanna moving house, with stacks of boxes and furniture leaning against the walls. Then, the Countess’ bedroom, with shopping bags strewn across the bed, and chandeliers on the floor. In the wedding scene, the doors have been ripped off. In the garden, we find the body of a beheaded statue. Through all the mess, the characters continue as if it’s normal.

The costumes, also designed by Marg Horwell, are a blend of old and new. The Count’s servants are dressed in grey, corporate uniforms. The Countess (Leanne Kenneally) shimmers in silver sequins, while the Count (Shaun Brown) wears a beige dressing gown. At the wedding, Marcellina (Hayley Sugars) wears a golden gown with a huge, voluminous skirt.

The story begins on Susanna and Figaro’s (Timothy Newton) wedding day. Susanna, performed on Wednesday by Katie Stenzel, is like the glue holding them all together. She navigates the mayhem with ease and always knows the best next move. Susanna and The Countess come up with a scheme to ensnare the Count and teach him a lesson.

Told over four acts, the opera has many memorable moments and lots of laughs. I enjoyed Figaro’s aria in Act I (If you want to dance, sir count) where he plans to outwit the Count and also Susanna’s aria in Act IV (Oh come, don’t delay) when she teases Figaro. As Susanna and Figaro, Katie and Timothy gave stunning performances throughout and really embodied their characters. Cherubino, the lovesick page boy (Xenia Puskarz Thomas) added much humour to the show.

The cast on Wednesday did a spectacular job of bringing this old tale back to life. Together with the sublime music of Mozart, this was a deeply engaging and entertaining performance. From the first notes of the overture to the finale, QSO performed with striking musical expression, reflecting the opera’s constant shifts in mood. Conductor Dane Lam kept impeccable timing from the pit to the stage.

Opera Queensland’s Marriage of Figaro sure makes for a fun evening out. It raises many questions on power, politics and love but doesn’t give neat answers. It shows us the messy complexities of life.

Marriage of Figaro is showing in the QPAC Playhouse until the 31st of July. Don’t miss out on this modern tale of romance and revolution.

Read our interview with soprano Katie Stenzel on her role as Susanna in the show here.

The Details
What: Opera Queensland’s Marriage of Figaro
When: 16-31 July 2021
Where: QPAC Playhouse
Tickets: Here.

Photos by Jade Ferguson, Visual Poets Society, courtesy of Opera Qld.