28 March 2018, MTG, Napier By Jamie Macphail
I have always been intimidated by opera, mostly because I have never taken the time to explore and educate myself in the art form. From that uneducated position I have primarily avoided it. That said I gladly took on the task of experiencing Wanderlust’s opera production on Wednesday evening.
I enjoy the Century Theatre at the MTG and its spacious foyer was buzzing with people in advance of the performance. Just as a slight restlessness began due to the doors not opening, a gentleman in a flowing shirt, carrying a stepladder and a tape measure, walked in to the swirling midst of us. He climbed the ladder, smiled and sang a welcome and health and safety briefing in fabulous operatic style. It became obvious that this was Figaro (Stuart Coats) and he was soon joined by his fiancée, Susanna (Alicia Cadwgan). Their introductory duet was engaging, funny and set the scene for what was to come. Strong voices, an informal but dramatic style and contemporary lyrics, including a reference to a ‘Weinstein Agenda’, had the audience already laughing as Stuart called us into the theatre itself with a shout of “Let’s Boogie!” With this, a group of about 20 people from within the crowd burst into song and led the way in.
What followed was two hours of superb singing, hilarity that at times had a Benny Hill-like mania to it, and a convoluted plot of lechery, love and misunderstandings.
Each of the principals were confident, colourful and convincing, even the initial cross-gender confusion experienced when the glorious Cherubino, so obviously a woman, was referred to as the count’s nephew!
The chorus, referred to in the programme as the Flash Mob, were called upon by Figaro several times to come from their seats within the audience to the stage to sing. They did this in high spirits, adding to the comic and informal appeal of the whole production, and their choral singing was sublime.
The set was simple, effective and well used. The costumes combined contemporary casual with lush period, and the entire piece was accompanied by Bruce Greenfield on grand piano. Composed by Mozart, this is some of the most well-known opera music there is, and Bruce’s playing was flawless, light and playful at times, full of darkness and drama at others. Masterful piano work.
The Marriage of Figaro: One Crazy Day was directed by Jacqueline Coats working with Georgia Jamieson Emms’ creatively adapted script. Georgia (who also played the part of Countess Almaviva) had simplified the storyline, minimised the cast, and crafted funny contemporary lyrics in English that still held to the essence of Mozart’s tale. Her goal is to make opera engaging, accessible and affordable; with Wanderlust’s travelling production of Marriage of Figaro, she certainly achieves this in spades.
I encourage you to seek out Wanderlust productions; they are a breath of fresh air and no doubt will be back with a newly devised, quirky show in the future.
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