Compressed, alternative version of Mozart’s Figaro treated with wit and flair

Mozart: The (other!) Marriage of Figaro, libretto by Georgia Jamieson Emms

Wanderlust Opera
Alicia Cadwgan (Susannah), Stuart Coats (Figaro), Megan Corby (Marcellina), Georgina Jamieson Emms (Countess), Barbara Paterson (Cherubino), Orene Tiai (Count), Fiona McCabe (accompanist)

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 30 August 2017, 12:15

Although only a few weeks ago Eternity Opera put on Mozart’s famous opera at the Hannah Playhouse, this was something very different.  Georgia Jamieson Emms’s group are to perform a fully-staged production of their show on 20 and 22 October at St. Matthew’s Collegiate, Masterton, then next summer take it on tour.  A good-sized audience was present for the concert, despite Houstoun and Hristova performing Beethoven at the other end of town.

It was both hilarious and very well performed.  Jamieson Emms knows how to use microphone, which was a great advantage when delivering her linking narrative.  She also knows how to write funny lines to well-known melodies.  On the whole, but not exclusively, arias stuck to English translations of the original words, while recitatives let fly with topical New Zealand references and colloquial language – not to mention music that Mozart never knew.  What about a bit of Evita thrown in?  And the old American song with words ‘Oh Susannah!’?

There were deviations to the text alluding to the performance being in St. Andrew’s Church.  Throughout, there was clear diction, superb timing, and lively acting, the latter admittedly somewhat limited by a small platform.

The show started with Susanna and Figaro literally measuring up their room.  They were both full of life and sang splendidly.  Throughout the performance the singers lived their characters.  The only partial exception was Orene Tiai as the Count, but this was thoroughly excusable; it was explained that he had come in at short notice when Craig Beardsworth was not able to perform.

Stuart Coats continued with ‘Se vuol ballare’, translated as ‘Come to my party’.  Most of his arias and ensembles he sang from memory, with panache and enthusiasm. The duet between Marcellina and Susanna was a most amusing narrative.  It was interesting to seem them using iPods instead of paper scores to read their parts.  However, they knew their scores well, and did not refer to the aids frequently.  Others in the cast used these tools occasionally later, too.  Up till now I had only seen pianists use these devices.

Next was a very lively and active Cherubino, in the form of Barbara Paterson.  This part suited her superbly, and I found her singing thoroughly engaging, compared with some recent occasions, where obviously the music did not suit her so well.  Her interactions with Susanna were entertaining and believable.

In the following trio the Count was added to the two we had just heard; Orene Tiai was very good in the role.  He was inevitably outshone by Figaro, though.  Stuart Coats  (who sang without score) was very strong, and always humorous.

For a complete change, Georgia Jamieson Emms gave us a very demure, gentle and understated Countess.  The contrast was most effective, coming before a lively Susanna/Cherubino duet, in which the latter proved her athleticism – her jumping out of the window was rendered by her jumping off the platform.

In the sextet of all the characters, all sang with full voice – it became a little overpowering in the excellent acoustics of St. Andrew’s.  Fiona McCabe’s accompaniments were always absolutely with the singers, and immaculate.

In the Letter Duet, the Countess’s and Susanna’s voices were absolutely lovely together, and their timing was perfect.

Another hilarious solo from Figaro brought us to the Finale, in which all sing.  It started from the point at which the Count realises that it is the Countess who is dressed as Susanna.  The voices were all outstanding, the ensemble was achieved fabulously well, and the acting was animated.

All in all, a delightful hour-long show.  I hope that Wellington audiences will get a chance to see the opera complete, with sets and costumes.  All praise to the participants, but especially to Georgia Jamieson Emms.

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