Figaro 2015

On Saturday to OA’s Marriage of Figaro.  D is away and I took K2, daughter of my friend Es.  K2 is spending a couple of months of her school holidays back home in Dusseldorf going to school in Mackay.  She could have taken more time off but she didn’t want to have to catch up on missed German schoolwork.  They take this sort of stuff very seriously there.

David McVicar’s production is handsome and lavishly costumed. A retinue of (mostly non-singing) servants emphasise the count’s status and power. The comedy tends towards a harder edge – I didn’t feel the conclusion to be as sweet as it sometimes is and Cherubino and the countess are already eying each other off. The last act was set in something more like a back terrace than the garden with pine trees referred to in the letter duet.

In line with the dramatic approach, musical tempi seem to be either very fast or rather slow, with dramatic pauses and sometimes even rather wayward moments. Not quite to Mackerras levels, there is a reasonable amount of da capo ornamentation, though not yet by everybody. There was some adventurous continuo realisation.

Figaro is probably still my favourite opera.  I first saw it with my friend P when I was about 19.  Isobel Buchanan was a memorable countess.  On Saturday P’s son, T, aged about 19, was there for his first performance.

There are two fine visiting singers – Andrei Bondarenko as the Count and Paolo Bordogna as Figaro. For me, though, it was Taryn Fiebig’s night as Susanna.  That’s probably partly the way the opera is written.  I didn’t think that Nicole Car as the countess was quite up to the standard of these other three.

The thing about Figaro [Marriage of] is that, a bit like Shakespeare, it can withstand many variations of approach and interpretation.  That’s the sign of a masterwork.  I could nit pick or disagree with some aspects of this production but it would be a mistake to suppose that there is just one right way to do it.

I’m going again to the last performance of this run and am definitely looking forward to it.

K2 was only in Sydney for a few days and had been determined not to waste any time.  She knew of my habit of taking a nap before going to the opera and let it be known early on that she did not wish to waste time doing this. On the day in question, in between when we parted at Tamarama at about 2pm (when I headed home for my nap) she had walked back to Bondi, taken the 380 to Watson’s Bay, taken the ferry to Circular Quay and another ferry to Darling Harbour, and bought some Ugg boots (much prized in Germany) at what she assured me was a very good price before meeting me mid-town a bit after 6pm before heading to the opera house. All of that is a credit to her stamina and adventurous spirit (she has only just since turned 15) as well as what you can now do in a foreign city with the help of a smart phone, but she did wilt a bit in the first half of the opera.  I bought her a strong coffee at interval.

The next day, in the car on the way to the airport after yum cha at Cabramatta, K2 was scarcely able to keep her eyes open.  She told me that she had been unable to sleep the night before until after 2 am.  Was it the coffee or the excitement?  I suppose we shall never know.

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