The Artscape Opera House is currently showing a rare treat of a production. Since its debut in 1786, The Marriage of Figaro has become one of Mozart’s most famous and well-loved operas, forming a cornerstone in the operatic timeline. For local stages, The Marriage of Figaro is the highest quality opera that will grace us for 2014.
It would thus appear a huge responsibility to pull off such a classic masterpiece to its full potential. But oh, Cape Town Opera does it so well. There are times when simply going to the theatre can breathe new life into one’s soul. Cape Town Opera is deserving of every standing ovation it has received, both here and overseas. This chorus of stirring voices, together with the Cape Town Philharmonic Opera under the masterful guidance of conductor Jeremy Silver, is an experience that is almost overwhelming.
The audience certainly gets its money’s worth in quantity and quality. The Marriage of Figaro, in traditional epic opera style, is performed in four acts and clocks in three and a half hours which, to be honest, fly by. The story, which takes place during one day of marriage madness, is filled with clever tricks and turns, loads of tomfoolery and consistent inside jokes. As the audience, you’re always in on the secret while the rest of the characters mindlessly get themselves into awkward situations, spinning webs of lies and deceit that inevitably end up catch up with them in the end. Not a scene passes without a conniving plan being hatched, often to plot ill-advised revenge. The script is brilliant, the operatic dialogue witty and perfectly timed – something that could only come from the classical masterminds of Mozart and Da Ponte.
Briefly, the twisted plotline of The Marriage of Figaro takes place on the wedding day of Figaro (George Stevens) and Susanna (Siphamandla Yakupa). The first scene, with awe-inspiring larger-than-life décor (set and costumes by Michael Mitchell) introduces us to the two lovers to be wed. They are raunchy and ready for their wedding night, but with one dampener on their joy: Count Almaviva (Mandisinde Mbuyazwe) is trying his utmost to reinstate a law that would allow him to bed Susanna on her wedding night. The count calls on cohort Marcellina (Violina Anguelov) – who, in turn, has her eye on Figaro – to help him with the legalities of claiming his feudal right to another man’s wife. Add to that an overly amorous page boy, some flower-bearing village maidens, a frustrated Countess and a drunken tattletale and you have the makings of a very eventful day in the palace of the Count.
Over and above the immaculately acted hilarity, the rollercoaster drama pauses every now and again for some solos. Special mention goes to the playful paramour Cherubino, his part played by Lynelle Kenned – well known on local stages for her beautiful voice and enormous smile. Golda Schultz as Countess Almaviva had everyone mesmerized with her soaring soprano solos – songs that suspended time.
This production sadly sees a bow out from Christine Crouse in her capacity as Cape Town Opera’s artistic director. The amount of love and effort put into this world class production has her leaving her director’s seat in the company on a soprano high of high notes.
Cape Town Opera’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) runs at the Artscape Opera House 18 to 26 October 2014.