Review by Olivia Ruggiero
Mozart’s Le Nozze de Figaro is everything you could hope for in an opera and more. Filled with humour, brilliant recitative, stunning arias, sex, debauchery and love (both requited and unrequited) – it is the perfect way to spend an evening if you have never been to an opera or you’ve been in love with opera for a hundred years.
The Opera Australia Orchestra are the heroes of this piece. They hit every single note (which is quite a feat in a score composed by Mozart), conducted by Andrea Molino, this orchestra is simply sublime. It takes everything not to leap to your feet at the end of the overture and give them a standing ovation. They exhibit incredible musicianship and musicality, the striking sforzando’s and poignant pianissimo’s leave you trembling with goosebumps. Molino could be in a show of his own and I would happily watch him all day, his passion and vigour can be felt throughout the theatre.
The Orchestra may be the heroes, but the score is the star. Mozart’s uncanny ability to compose perfectly harmonised music, that compliment the wit of Lorenzo Da Ponte (librettist) with perfect timing makes you appreciate why his music has lived on. To see this opera on his 266th birthday is truly something special. He was truly ahead of his time.
The production team seem to have worked seamlessly together to create the world of Le Nozze de Figaro. The lighting design by David Finn is gorgeous. He creates the perfect ambience to reflect the scene and the setting – the way the light seems to cascade through the windows of the set so naturally but still managed to illuminate the whole stage so not a single singer/actor is left in darkness is truly brilliant. His work combined with the genius of Jenny Tiramani is truly a marvellous thing. Her set design is jaw dropping. The beauty, majesty and detail will leave you breathless. The complexity in which she has designed the set allows for a brilliant recreation of a manor home in the 17th century. The effortless set changes will leave you gasping in awe every time the curtain is reopened. The icing on top of this production designs cake are the costumes. Again, Tiramani proves herself a stickler for detail with a genius eye for design. The colour schematics compliment the world so beautifully. At the end of Act 2 you wonder how it could get any better – and when the Countess enters in Act 3 you realise that Tiramani has been holding out. Her costumes are lavish, decadent and yet effortlessly fit into the world and the score that Mozart composed.
Mozart was certainly not a kind composer and his scores have a reputation for being difficult to sing with endless recitative, dexterous coloratura work and “so many notes”… but this cast proves themselves up for the challenge. It takes at least 15 minutes for the voices to warm up and settle in – perhaps opening night jitters – but by Act 2 they are soaring. The trio’s, quartets, quintets and ensemble work is simply harmonious. The voices blend so well together, listening to them is effortless.
Tommaso Barea in the titular role is impish, clever and so loveable. His voice booms with focus that seems almost effortless and the warmth of his tone reverbs around the opera house. His rendition of “Aprite un po’quegli occhi” in Act 4 cements why he has been chosen to sing this role. It is passionate, his musicality is excellent and his control is admirable. Not only does his voice engage you but his connection to text is brilliant in every moment – his choices are believable, and his timing highlights the comedy of the score impeccably.
Stacey Alleaume flourishes in her coloratura work. She proves herself expert in this field, and she does so with grace. However, the legato lines in “Guinse alfin il momento…” proved a challenge for Alleaume – she struggles to maintain the beauty and effortlessness in this aria. She is to be commended though as her acting skills are comparable to that of Callas. Her class on stage is genuinely joyful to watch.
Agnes Sarkis is a brilliant Cherubino, however in trying to compete with the other voices onstage, she at times, overweights her voice. This produces a tone that is less than crystal, which she exhibits she can have in her rendition of “Voi Che Sapete” which earns her a well-deserved applause. Her physical comedy skills earn her many laughs and bring delight to the audience.
An entire act passes, and I am longing to hear something that will wow me vocally – the voices are wonderful and more than capable of tackling Mozart’s score, but I am waiting for that moment in an opera that stops your heart and leaves you aching for more – then Ekaterina Morozova sings. It is that void that I have been missing. Her calm and effortlessness whilst singing such warm and rich tone and tackling difficult arias with ease is a feat. She is beautiful to watch, and she never wavers. There is not note she sings that is not perfectly placed. Her performance is flawless.
It would be remiss not to mention Sian Sharp and Danita Weatherstone who excel in their roles as Marcellina and Barbarina. Sharp for her incredibly memorable moment of revelation in Act 3 – her acting choices and vocal prowess is to be admired. The skill of Weatherstone in all of her solo moments defines her as a force to be reckoned with – she holds her own on that stage and impresses in her role.
The Opera Australia Chorus deserves a commendation – not just because they once again prove they are a world class ensemble, producing a wall of sound that is luscious and divine, but in this instance they prove they are not just vocalists. They can act! They embrace the hilarity of their roles as eavesdroppers and gossiping members of the court. They are charming and do not disappoint. Certainly, a glorious part of this Opera.
This production originally directed by David McVicar has been wonderfully revived and given new life by Andy Morton. It is easy to see why Opera Australia has chosen to place this Opera on stage, with this particular direction and production design and with this dazzling cast. Well worth the price of a ticket.