Reviewed: The Marriage of Figaro

07.28.10
Patrick Summers
The Manly Daily

By Tom Pillans

As Mozart’s clever and determined heroine Susanna, soprano Taryn Fiebig is a delight; a powerhouse in a small frame that belies the intensity, colour and ringing tones of her voice.

She brings a freshness and joyous energy to the part of Figaro’s bride-to-be, skipping from one drooping curtain to the next as she eludes the lecherous attentions of her employer, the notorious Count Almaviva in a castle near Seville.

This may just be Fiebig’s best performance to date in a repertoire that includes Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Papagena in The Magic Flute, Musetta in La boheme and Eliza in My Fair Lady. Yet she joined Opera Australia’s Young Artist Development program only five years ago.

Peter Coleman-Wright makes a persistent but curiously innocent lecher, easily deflected from his desire to exercise his droit de seigneur on Susanna. There’s no mistaking the power of his voice, though, his rich baritone both sonorous and expressive.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes makes an appealing if not particularly bright Figaro. Susanna works out the count’s intentions long before Figaro sees the light. That awesomely deep bass-baritone serves him well and he looks more comfortable as Figaro than he did the few times he appeared in earlier productions of this work in the role of the count.

Talented soprano Rachelle Durkin bolsters the cast as Almaviva’s neglected wife. Her rendering of Dove sono, in which she mourns her lost love, is tender and touching and one of the highlights of the opera.

In support, tenor Kanen Breen stands out as the effete and highly mannered lawyer Don Basilio, and mezzo-soprano Sian Pendry makes an appealing Cherubino, the adolescent page with raging hormones.

Baritone Warwick Fyfe, as Dr Bartolo, and mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Dark, as Marcellina, add a touch of humour to the confusion of plots and sub-plots of revenge, thwarted love, envy and joyous discovery.

This production, an appealing and spirited revival of a 2001 work, is not without its idosyncracies: the opening scene shows the servants using a vacuum cleaner and an electric iron, and Durkin’s first boudoir scene includes a large old-fashioned hair-dryer.

The armchair that provides Cherubino with a hiding place around which the count pursues Susanna is clearly equipped with casters - not patented until 1876, about 90 years after Figaro was first performed.

Fortunately, none of these detract from this performance, which marks a return to form for Opera Australia.

Conductor Patrick Summers, music director of Houston Grand Opera, was at his most ebullient on opening night, maintaining a brisk pace.

Easily the best production so far this season - and Mozart’s music is a bonus.