Review: Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro – in South Africa 2022- sparkles with hilarity, wit and virtuosity – Judith Neilson Cape Town Opera Tour of 2022
|Le Nozze di Figaro tour 2022- presented by of Cape Town Opera (CTO)- a collaboration between CTO and the Gauteng-based Sempre Opera|
Artscape Opera House, Cape Town: June 18 to 26, 2022
Roodepoort Theatre, Johannesburg: July 6 to 15, 2022
Bookings for Artscape season: Computicket or through Dial-A-Seat on 021 421 7695. Direct booking link: https://tickets.computicket.com/event/le_nozze_di_figaro/7187344
Bookings for Roodepoort Theatre season: Webtickets. Direct booking link: https://www.webtickets.co.za/v2/event.aspx?itemid=1515128575
Director: Magdalene Minnaar
Orchestra: The Cape Town Pops Orchestra, led by Lucia di Blasio-Scott, will be conducted by Schalk van der Merwe
For cast and other creative credits, see: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/preview-nozze-di-figaro-inspired-by-the-romanticism-of-artful-decay-exciting-collab-cto-and-sempre-opera/
“A lot of insults were traded …age may been mentioned.” That is one of the hilarious asides popping up in the surtitle projection panel in Cape Town Opera’s, Le Nozze di Figaro, (The Marriage of Figaro); a rollicking collaboration between (CTO) and the Gauteng-based Sempre Opera. The opera is sung in Italian. English surtitles are presented on the screen panel, in movie style, with animated drawings (such as a wonky clock), squiggles, arrows. At some points, the libretto is translated, line by line and then when it becomes too convoluted, we are presented with pithy comments – for instance- with arrows- pointing to groups on stage. We get the gist. We don’t need it line by line, repeated and repeated. In a strip above the screen, an isiXhosa translation is provided. Through the wackiness of the surtitles, the mickey is taken out of the shenanigans of the four act opera composed in 1786 by Mozart, with the Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. The opera premiered in 1786 in Vienna. The action takes place over a very long day – with two couples- a tussle between a couple in service to a count and countess. It is master-servant thing. It is about class, sex, lust, intrigue, entitlement, excess, revenge; men lording their status over women and women carping back at them – with glee. The brilliance of the movie style surtitle screen, allows one to not get hung up in the story and to sit back and revel in the music, voice and visual feast. Who cares about the plot-lines. It ends happily (kind of), with tying of marital knots.
Director Magdalene Minnaar, has drawn from a Rococo aesthetic vibe (late Baroque- architectural and artistic style popular in France in the first half of the eighteenth century) and laced up the production with opulence. Minnaar, working with the design team (Maritha Visagie and Rabia Davids), raided Artscape’s storerooms and pulled out costumes, wigs and props. It is if the cast has been given a free pass to play dress- up. It’s mostly in period– with some liberties- especially in the last delicious scene- which looks like the company has walked into a party/novelty shop and have garbed themselves in costumes for an extravagant wedding. It is a very Instagram-able scene with scope for hashtags but we are in 1786 Vienna, so no mobile phones are in the frame.
The company has huge fun in this production and their delight is infectious, with the audience hooting along. Mozart’s music is beautiful. The fabulous Cape Town Pops Orchestra, conducted by Schalk van der Merwe, whips up the tempo with terrific energy and verve.
In reading up about Figaro, I was interested to learn that the opera was commissioned by the so-called “Enlightened” Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II. Figaro was the first of three operas which Mozart collaborated with Lorenzo Da Ponte – a womanizer of note and a poet and priest. Mozart and Da Ponte, worked on Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte. Louis XVI of France was not impressed at the digs at the ruling classes and he censored Le Nozze di Figaro, for public performance. In 1784, after some cutting, he gave it the thumbs up and then it premiered in 1786, Vienna. Here we are in South Africa 2022 and it is an opportunity to showcase the fine talents of our opera singers.
The company is in fine form – with knockout performances: Conroy Scott as Figaro, Brittany Smithas Susanna; William Berger and Siphamandla Moyake as Count and Countess Almaviva; Megan Kahts as Cherubino; Monica Mhangwana as Marcellina; Lwazi Dlamini as Bartolo; Siphesihle Mdena as Basilio/Don Curzio; Alida Stoman as Barbarina, Rouel Beukes as Antonio. It was a treat to see the marvellous Monica Mhangwana as Marcellina. She recently joined Cape Town Opera as one of its Young Artists for 2022. I am a huge fan of Britany Smith and William Berger and as always they astounded me with their acting as well as their vocal smarts. The production moves to Roodepoort [July 6 to 15, 2022], with a few cast changes: Danie Verster as Bartolo and Chris Mostert as Basilio.
Cape Town Opera notes that this production of Le Nozze di Figaro, has been made possible by “the generous support of the City of Cape Town, Lift Airline and the Judith Neilson Head Trust.” Bravo to the funders for treating us to an opera which has been voted as one of the operas of all time. It is wonderful that we are getting the opportunity to enjoy Mozart’s wondrous music and that we can see our opera stars work those voices for our edification and delight- in the time of the pandemic, year three with the 50% rule still applying to seating at theatre. Without the support of the funders, this Judith Neilson Cape Town Opera Tour of 2022 Le Nozze di Figaro, would not have been feasible to produce. Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro – in South Africa 2022- sparkles with hilarity, wit and virtuosity.
✳ Pics by Kim Stevens. Supplied.