David McVicar’s insightful take on Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro has returned to the stage after its 2015 premiere, and in this rich, confident revival, is very welcome indeed. The director’s expert handling of the opera’s social and sexual politics has retained both its subtlety and impact, thanks in no small part to the deftness of the cast.
Paolo Bordogna, Anna Dowsley and Stacey Alleaume in Opera Australia’s The Marriage of Figaro. Photos © Prudence Upton
Making her debut as Susanna, Stacey Alleaume paired fine comic instincts with a voice of bell-like purity. A magnetic stage presence, the soprano gave a dramatically nuanced portrayal of a character that’s often played as just perky or sassy. Conveying real emotional depth in a raptly sung Deh vieni non tardar, this was a formidable Susanna of stature and principle, every bit a match for Paolo Bordogna’s wily Figaro.
Though his comic chops are well established by now, Bordogna’s realisation of the role has deepened considerably since 2015. In sonorous voice, his Se vuol ballare was tinged with real menace, while the blustering Aprite un po’ quegl’occhi was underpinned by the character’s deep insecurity. Entirely convincing as young lovers, the baritone had an easy natural rapport with Alleaume, their relationship central to the opera’s dramatic stakes.
Paolo Bordogna and Stacey Alleaume in Opera Australia’s The Marriage of Figaro
In her company debut, Russian soprano Ekaterina Sadovnikova displayed a lovely, silvery timbre in the role of the Countess. She spun sumptuous, creamy lines in Porgi amor, with her Dove sono no less sublime. Not only a deeply felt, wistful remembrance of things past, the soprano also communicated the Countess’ sorrow and shame over her husband’s conduct. The Letter Duet with Alleaume was yet another time-stopping moment of vocal beauty, as was her forgiveness of the Count, simply and exquisitely done.
Reprising his role as the faithless Count, Andrei Bondarenko once again demonstrated his ample vocal authority and magnetic stage presence. Declining to indulge in the usual buffoonery, he instead used his finely pointed baritone to alternately insinuate, flatter and hector the unfortunate souls that populate his household. His Hai gia vinta la causa was excellently done, a convincing blend of rage and impotence, while his command of the legato line was most impressive. Alongside Sadovnikova, Bondarenko made the audience aware of the long, fraught history between the unhappy spouses.
Ekaterina Sadovnikova in Opera Australia’s The Marriage of Figaro
Also reprising her role, Anna Dowsley’s Cherubino proved a delightful foil for the rest of the cast, lovestruck and constantly underfoot. The dynamic mezzo offered up a breathlessly fervent Non so più and a Voi che sapete moving in its openhearted sincerity, successfully striking a balance between the scene’s humour and truth.
In the supporting roles, Dominica Matthews as Marcellina, Richard Anderson as Dr Bartolo and Benjamin Rasheed as Basilio gave more focused performances than these characters often get, a credit to revival director Andy Morton as well as McVicar’s production. Kate Amos, last seen making her mainstage debut as Arkie in Whiteley, made for a winning Barbarina in her brief time on stage.
Paolo Bordogna, Andrei Bondarenko, Dominica Matthews and Richard Anderson in Opera Australia’s The Marriage of Figaro
Under Guillaume Tourniaire, the Opera Australia Orchestra’s fresh, witty account of the score flowed with a disarming naturalness. Dramatically minded and stylish, Tourniaire allowed the singing to unfold with an unforced, intimate quality, just right for a work that delves so beautifully into human relationships.
Opera Australia’s The Marriage of Figaro is at the Sydney Opera House until November 2