Review by Bill Stephens

The Marriage of Figaro
by:Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
presented by:CAMRA
directed by:Patricia Whitbread & Colin Forbes
musical direction by:  Colin Forbes
venue:St. Phillip's Church, O'Connor
season:2nd August to 11th August
reviewed by:Bill Stephens

We don't see a lot of opera in Canberra so this charming little production of The Marriage of Figaro currently being presented in St.Phillip's Church, O'Connor by CAMRA, provides a welcome opportunity to savor the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's masterpiece of comic opera.

Though the facilities for staging opera at St.Phillip's are modest, and the wooden seating unforgiving, the acoustics are excellent, and directors Patricia Whitbread and Colin Forbes have turned this to their advantage, casting their largely inexperienced singers judiciously, staging inventively, and ensuring that the singing, which in the ensembles especially is quite admirable, is the major focus of the production.

They have also wisely chosen to present the opera in English, with the action moved into the 1930's to simplify costuming, so that in the cozily intimate ambience of St. Phillip's there is no difficulty following the storyline and enjoying the jokes, due mainly to the generally excellent diction of the singers.

Sheena Smith is delightful as the mischievous Susannah, singing prettily and cleverly sustaining her reactions and responses to the characters around her. Peter Laurence as her spunky Figaro, looked good and sang well, but could afford to bring more concentration and vivacity to his role.

Stephen Hines and Tanuja Doss were both well cast and in good voice, as the Count and Countess Almaviva, and their interpretations were intelligent and entertaining. Although a little out of her depth, Alison Knight started out confidently, sang brightly and ultimately gave quite a good account of the difficult pants role of Cherubino. Leila Fetter (Marcellina) Robert Orr (Dr. Bartolo), Ron Presswell (Don Basilio) Madeleine Rowland (Barbarina), Don Presswell ( Don Basilio) and Tony Fortey (Antonio) all impressed in small roles supported by a necessarily small but enthusiastic chorus.

A feature of this production is the superb accompaniment by Colin Forbes on keyboard reproducing the appropriate harpsichord sound, which adds an attractive element of authenticity to a charming and entertaining realisation of Mozart's enduring masterpiece.