Pacific Opera Victoria
The Marriage of Figaro Music by W.A. Mozart, Libretto by Lorenzo de Ponte; based on the play by P.A.C. Beaumarchais

Dates and Venue 24, 26, 30, April, 2 May, 2014 April 2013, 8pm (matinée 4 May at 2:30pm) | Royal Theatre, 1815 Blanshard Street, Victoria

Countess Almaviva Leslie Ann Bradley Count Almaviva Phillip Addis Susanna David John Pike FigaroJustin Welsh Cherubino Ray Chenez Dr. BartoloThomas Goerz Marcellina Erin Lawson Dr. Bazilio/Don Curzio Michael Barrett Barbarina Erica Warder Antonio Andrew Erasmus

Conductor Timothy Vernon Director Brent Krysa Designer Cameron Porteous Lighting Robert Thomson Choreographer Jacques Lemay Chorus master Giuseppe Pietraroia

Sung in Italian with English surtitles

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

The Marriage of Figaro is one of those works which, even if done badly, always contains delight. Pacific Opera Victoria does not do things badly, and their current production of this scintillating, vivacious, magical opera is beautifully sung, well-acted and shining with life.

Rich period costumes and furnishings by Cameron Porteous in a sumptuous colour palette add layers of depth to the production without ever being over the top. Neat little touches such as an elegant chest which opens to reveal the Count’s wig equipment are both amusing and set the production firmly in the context of the Figaro operas and plays. A dressing-gown to die for, the gold and silver trim on the dressing-room furniture exemplify the Almaviva’s standing and privilege while on a grander scale the full height, mirrored revolving doors on either side of the stage are not merely side wings or a base for Robert Thomson’s elegant lighting, but reflect the constantly changing perceptions offered by Mozart and da Ponte in this opera where nothing is as it seems.

Justin Welsh was a bouncing Figaro with a warm and confident baritone and a delightful sense of humour. With “Se vuol ballare", the aria in which Figaro promises to outwit Count Almaviva, he swiped at the count’s wig with his barber’s powder-brush to considerable comical effect without losing an ounce of determination. Elegance and warmth define both the Countess Rosina’s personality and Leslie Ann Bradley’s beautiful singing. Bradley’s long, lovely lines only serve to highlight the sadness of the wonderful arias, “Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro” and “Dove sono” with subtle refinement.

In unusual but superbly successful casting, Cherubino, the love-lost page-boy, is sung by a male counter-tenor, not .a female contralto. Every inch the hormone-infested youth, Ray Chenez sings with passion, as well as vocal agility and his duet with Susanna (Miriam Khalil) offered some lovely moments between the two characters. Miriam Khalil’s Susanna is perhaps the only properly grown-up character. Innately self-confident, this Susanna can flirt with Cherubino, enchant Figaro, comfort the Countess and even manage the Count with aplomb. On stage for most of the opera, Khalil’s energy never flags, the sensual “Deh, vieni”, near the end being as delicately performed as her opening duet with Figaro was spirited.

Excellent diction and artful embellishments enhanced the clever character sketches by Thomas Goerz (Dr. Bartolo), Erin Lawson (Marcellina), Michael Barrett (Don Basilio / Don Curzio), Erica Warder (Barbarina) and Andrew Erasmus (Antonio).

Graceful in voice and person, Philip Addis gave a subtle, nuanced account of Count Almaviva, both as a selfish philanderer and as a husband who has lost his wife’s attention, aspects clearly depicted in Brent Krysa’s direction. Anger too was well expressed. However, the brutality the director called for, despite being an interesting idea, seemed to me less convincing.

In general though, the stage direction was clear, well thought-out and in service to the music. Even the scene changes were on the beat, a delightful touch. The Pacific Opera Chorus sang with verve and the assured dancing from all the cast is a testament to choreographer Jacques Lemay’s skill. Timothy Vernon led the Victoria Symphony with sparkling precision.

© 2014 Elizabeth Paterson