THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO by W.A. Mozart, directed by Marshall Pynkoski, with Daniel Belcher, Nathalie Paulin, Curtis Sullivan and Monica Whicher. Presented by Opera Atelier at the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge). Runs to May 10, Friday-Saturday 7:30 pm. 416-872-5555. Rating:NNN Rating: NNN
The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart's comic masterpiece about a wedding almost undone by secret assignations, lust, letters and disguise, gets a sumptuous period performance by Opera Atelier. It's a popular production, the baroque opera company's most-seen to date. And no wonder. Just as Mozart bestowed musical riches on even the most trivial scenes - the writing of a letter, a farcical situation about closet doors - so director Marshall Pynkoski drapes and frames the three-hour piece with antique-store opulence.
No frugality here. Dora Rust D'Eye's commedia-dell'arte-inspired costumes and the subtle charm of William Shmuck's sets look stunning in the suitably grand Elgin, even if the dell'arte motif feels grafted on and gives an arch, broad feel to the production.
You can't hide Mozart's music, though, especially when it's vigorously, deliciously played by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra under David Fallis.
The keys to character are all in the music, which sits comfortably within most of the singers' range. Though they have to sing sometimes annoyingly colloquial English translations ("Hey, Susanna, how's it going?" is one howler), the cast glide through the work without stumbling.
Daniel Belcher captures the nimble wiliness of the title character, while Nathalie Paulin brings vitality to Susanna, his sweet-voiced betrothed. Curtis Sullivan tosses off the Count with swaggering bravado, but Monica Whicher has diction problems as his wife - often her arias are a mess of vowels - redeeming herself with strong dramatic instincts.
Laura Pudwell has fun in the small role of Marcellina, and Jennie Such's horny cross-dressing Cherubino nearly steals the opera with her strong, clear projection.