SHOW: The Marriage of Figaro
DIRECTOR: Christine Crouse
CAST: George Stevens, Siphamandla Yakupa, Mandisinde Mbuyazwe, Golda Schultz, Lynelle Kenned, Thato Machona, Violina Anguelov, Lukhanyo Moyake
VENUE: Artscape Opera House until October 26
REVIEW: PETER TROMP
The term “operatic” has entered the popular lexicon because of opera’s general tendency to highlight the highest possible stakes. Characters usually stand to gain the whole world, or lose everything, including their hearts, sanity, and often their lives. Struggles are usually of the life and death variety. Not so ‘The Marriage Of Figaro’.
Mozart’s opera is mostly domestic in scope, dealing with the goings on in a single household, albeit a nobleman’s abode, and emphasizes humour as much as the characters emoting through operatic song. Not having seen a production of this particular opera before, I was slightly concerned that the humour would be in the vein of a Shakespeare comedy – mostly cerebral, and dare I say outdated. As it happens, CTO’s production is filled with belly laughs aplenty, and because the humour is predominantly character based, very little of it feels outmoded, especially since so much of it concerns that age old hot button issue: the differences between the sexes. Mozart’s music – as is to be expected – is also dazzlingly executed.
The opera details Figaro’s (George Stevens) often comical attempts to outwit his boss, the Count Almaviva (Mandisinde Mbuyazwe), after the latter decides to claim his primitive right to have his way with Susanna (Siphamandla Yakupa), Figaro’s betrothed, on her wedding night. Throw in the displeased Countess Almaviva (Golda Schultz), who along with Susanna hatches a scheme to teach her philandering husband a lesson he won’t soon forget, and the mischievous antics of rascally womanising youth Cherubino (Lynelle Kenned) and you have yourself the setup for all manner of hijinks.
The true strength of Christine Crouse’s production lies in the performances. Almost every performer provides something special and memorable. I would say the standouts are Schultz as the Countess, who exudes dignified suffering throughout and whose singing is a joy; Mbuyazwe as the Count, the villain one loves to hate, but who isn’t beyond redemption; and Stevens as Figaro, who is a winning hero to get behind.
At almost three and a half hours, ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ did feel overlong, especially since the mood is so even keel. Unlike other operas, ‘Figaro’ doesn’t really build to a crescendo. It kind of peters out, but at least the characters are well defined enough for one to want to follow their story to its end.
Also, the monolithic stage design sits slightly at odds with the overall mood of the opera. I’m not sure if it exists is to showcase the overpowering stultification of the norms of the day, but it just seemed odd a lot of the times.
* Book at Computicket.