Marriage of Figaro – utterly joyous lark – Melanie Tromp Hoover

Pacific Opera Victoria’s detailed production of The Marriage of Figaro—the company’s fourth time on stage with this particular work—is an utterly joyous lark. One of the most enduring and popular comic operas around, Mozart’s lofty piece flies by thanks to the cast’s bottomless energy and artistic director Timothy Vernon’s seasoned hand leading the Victoria Symphony in a spotless and agile interpretation of the composer’s work.

Figaro is mischievously big-hearted, not unlike its titular character. After just a few lolling moments of peace on the morning of Figaro’s marriage to his much-beloved Susanna, the motley cast of big personalities quickly becomes mired in a love triangle that flips and spins into a thorny octagon by the time the fourth act starts. Pride, jealousy, forgiveness and Shakespearean-level eavesdropping are all at work here in an opera that is silly in its embroidered hijinks but decidedly hopeful in its tender moments. Best of all, the laughs are frequent and genuine—thanks in equal part to the vigor of the young cast and a number of witty performances under Brent Krysa’s methodical direction.

Mozart’s composition itself is a tremendous joy—efficiently paced but still rich in its ideas, colour and complexity under Vernon’s leadership. The mix of arias, duets and trios are deftly performed by all ten of the opera’s principals and this evenness gave healthy dimension to each of the supporting players in turn.

While the opera’s casting skewed a bit young (suspending eyebrows and disbelief in the more mature roles) it was pitch perfect for Ray Chenez’s Cherubino, whose stunning countertenor and lanky gesticulations easily passed for the lusty teenager he’s written as. Typically a role for a mezzo-soprano in drag, the choice to cast a man as Cherubino in this production played brilliantly into some of the best physical humour of the piece.

Soprano Miriam Khalil’s wry and infectious Susanna stole everyone’s heart on stage and off, what with her charming poise amid chaos and her lushly textured and expressive voice. Soprano Leslie Ann Bradley is equally formidable as the mistreated Countess, baring her soul with an impeccably performed Dove sono i bei momenti at the top of act three and bringing the stars back into alignment with her soulful forgiveness in Piú docile io sono to close the show. Baritone Justin Welsh’s Figaro was equal parts impish and energetic—matching Susanna trick for trick to round out the talented couple’s irresistible chemistry.

Pairs of mirrored revolving doors on either side of the stage added glamour, depth and the opportunity for fluid transitions between scenes, while designer Cameron Porteous’ lavish 18th century costuming added texture to an otherwise reserved set. In an inspired choice that only added to the farce’s humour, Figaro’s kookiest antagonists donned a pair of outrageous wigs: Marcellina (mezzo-soprano Erin Lawson) in a mile-high black beehive and Don Basilio (tenor Michael Barrett) in a pair of Scary Spice-esque curly horns.

Co-produced with Calgary Opera, The Marriage of Figaro runs a full three hours with intermission—but the opportunity to hear Mozart’s dazzling work performed this well (and this riotously) is worth every minute of your time.

Plays to May 2 – CLICK HERE for more info

Melanie Tromp Hoover

2 Responses to Marriage of Figaro – utterly joyous lark – Melanie Tromp Hoover

  • Super review — thank you. It should (but almost certainly won’t) encourage the opera-shy to give POV a chance. I subscribed to a “big house” opera company for decades until I moved here fifteen years ago. One trip to POV showed me that “small house” companies can do operas that the big boys seldom do well: baroque, e.g. POV can do it all, however — even Wagner, Berg and Stravinsky. Victorians have this golden opportunity so close at hand; they owe it to themselves to try opera — and this sounds like the perfect opera with which to start. (My tickets are for 5/2 so I haven’t seen it yet.)