A Valentine’s Day Review: The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ (February 4 – February 27, 2016)

Canadian Opera Company audiences find themselves ensnared in a web of erotic passions with a new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro this February. One of the most beautiful and convincing operas about the fluid enchantments, maze-like confusions and bouts of sheer blindness brought on by love, this new staging is directed by one of the most sought-after and critically acclaimed artists of his generation, Claus Guth, with equally celebrated musical leadership by COC Music Director Johannes Debus. The Marriage of Figaro is on stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts for 11 performances, including a special presentation starring the young artists of the COC’s Ensemble Studio training program, on February 4, 7, 9, 13, 17, 19, 21, 22*, 23, 25 and 27, 2016.

This new COC production of The Marriage of Figaro was originally built by the Salzburg Festival as the centrepiece of its celebrations for the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. It was hailed as a “masterpiece” (Bloomberg News) and was the hit of the 2006 Salzburg Festival – revived repeatedly in successive seasons since. German director Claus Guth is renowned for his innovative productions of classic operas and for this Figaro he draws visual and thematic inspiration from the films of Ingmar Bergman and the plays of Ibsen and Strindberg, while fusing stylized gesture and choreography with Mozart’s score to deliver a “shattering, unforgettable” (The Guardian) account of the elemental forces of human nature at play in this opera.

COC Music Director Johannes Debus is at the musical helm of the COC’s entire winter season as he conducts The Marriage of Figaro in addition to Siegfried, leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus through a score widely considered a testament to Mozart’s genius. In Figaro, Mozart writes musical moments of unprecedented emotional impact and sensuality, delivering an opera that fuses comedy, tragedy and poetry to create one of the smartest and sharpest explorations of human relationships in all theatre. Assistant conductor Jordan de Souza steps into the orchestra pit for Maestro Debus on February 23 and 25.

A sparkling cast has been assembled for this magnificent, witty farce that finds Figaro and Susanna’s wedding in jeopardy due to the wandering eye of their employer, the Count. The ensuing intrigue and mistaken identities lead all the characters to experience intense human passions as they’re torn between morality, desire and impulse.

Austrian bass-baritone Josef Wagner, praised as “energetic and forceful as Figaro” (Calgary Herald) in his recent North American debut with Calgary Opera, makes his first COC appearance in the title role. His love, Susanna, is internationally acclaimed Canadian soprano Jane Archibald, praised in her most recent outing with the COC in 2015’s Don Giovanni as “thrilling from first note to last, with a sweep and an edge that made her presence on stage aurally riveting” (Globe and Mail).

Renowned Canadian soprano Erin Wall, last heard at the COC in 2012’s Love from Afar, is the Countess She brings her “soprano of radiance, pristine beauty and tingling top notes” (The Guardian) to a role that explores the full range of emotion, from sadness to humour to forgiveness. The Count is sung by internationally acclaimed Canadian baritone Russell Braun, returning to the COC after his intense, critically acclaimed and Dora Award nominated portrayal of Don Giovanni last season.

American mezzo-soprano Emily Fons, one of opera’s rising stars, makes her COC debut as the mischievous Cherubino. Acclaimed Canadian tenor Michael Colvin, who delighted COC audiences with his Dr. Caius in 2014’s Falstaff, sings the role of gossiping music teacher Basilio. Canadian bass Robert Pomakov, last with the COC in 2013’s Peter Grimes, returns as the vengeful Bartolo. American mezzo-soprano Helene Schneiderman makes her COC debut as Marcellina, Bartolo’s housekeeper and partner-in-crime.

Canadian baritone Doug MacNaughton is Antonio, Ensemble Studio tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure is Don Curzio and Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Sasha Djihanian is Antonio’s daughter, Barbarina. German actor Uli Kirsch is Cherubim, a silent character introduced by Guth often seen manipulating the other characters.

Set and costume design is by Christian Schmidt, who situates the action within the main hall of a 19th-century mansion with the character’s wardrobe reflecting a more modern era through 20th-century dresses and suits. Lighting design is by Olaf Winter with video design by Andi A. Müller. Choreography is by Ramses Sigl.

TICKET INFORMATION

Single tickets for The Marriage of Figaro range from $50 – $435 and are available online at coc.ca, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit coc.ca.

Review:

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner – so why not treat your lover or loved one to The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ as a holiday treat?  Chocolates and lingerie are so passé – opera tickets is the ultimate Valentine’s gift.

Mozart’s work is a wonderful way to relax into your Valentine’s Day evening.  His work is rich, diverse and full of moments worth lingering upon within the characterization on stage and one’s own life.

Let’s be cynical for a moment, Valentine’s Day  commercial leanings of ‘Be Mine’, ‘I Heart You’ alongside Valentine shaped candy boxes and batting eye lashes can be a bit much.  Its one day.  True love affairs don’t come close in matching these motifs on a daily basis.

As per Guth’s Director’s Notes ‘Mozart created a world theatre of human passions that testifies to the elemental force of eroticism. All forms of love and desire are found in this opera, and the four generations of characters— presented in exemplary fashion—are completely torn between morality, desire and impulse. In Figaro, Mozart not only allows all kinds of intense human passions but also portrays how they can get out of control and escalate to extremes, thus setting his opera far apart from the comedy by Beaumarchais.’

Mozart’s score oozes depth, sex appeal and the moors of darkness within the confines of a relationship.  As the Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ unfolds we see Figaro, Susanna, The Count and Countess at their best and their worst.  How could we not squirm in our seats and think of our own past (or present) dalliances in the pitch of the honeymoon period to the equivalent of the February blues?  Anxiety, self doubt, confusion and grief all play a part.  The reality is these flavours run through our veins throughout the course of our relationships.  The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ is a wonderful reflection within ourselves and the health of our romantic lives.

Cherubim’s insertion of humour as he sprinkled feathers and imaginary cupid arrows at the characters added a touch of whimsy, delight and giddy smiles throughout the production.  Come on, the audience needs a relief line during the course of the production.  Again, a lovely reminder that even in the darkest of times we need laughter to pull us through.  A box of chocolates would have been nice to add to the lux experience as we curled up in our Four Seasons Opera Company seats.

The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ is perfect for the novice opera goer.  It is a modern piece, the staging architecture will make you swoon in its crown mouldings and sweeping staircase glory, the rich characterization of the talent and song will make your knees shake in your seat and the orchestral accompaniment will make you wonder why you haven’t come to the opera sooner.

Let The Canadian Opera Company’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ ruminate with your guest over a glass of wine in their wine bar space.  This Valentine’s Day – challenge your lover or your loved one with how you will strengthen your love in the year ahead as oppose to just one day out of 365.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

http://www.coc.ca/

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