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Young opera stars take Figaro to the fifties


10 October 2013

The Sydney Conservatorium of Music's bi-annual opera productions have been the launching pad for some of Australia's most prominent names in opera, such as Dame Joan Sutherland, Yvonne Kenny, Amelia Farrugia and Lyndon Terracini. [Jenny Liu (playing Susanna) and Andrew Williams (playing Figaro). Image: Ian Barry].
The Sydney Conservatorium of Music's bi-annual opera productions have been the launching pad for some of Australia's most prominent names in opera, such as Dame Joan Sutherland, Yvonne Kenny, Amelia Farrugia and Lyndon Terracini. [Jenny Liu (playing Susanna) and Andrew Williams (playing Figaro). Image: Ian Barry].

Australia's next crop of opera stars is bringing a touch of the zeitgeist to classic opera the Marriage of Figaro by setting it in the age of prosperity, pin-up girls and poodle skirts: the fabulous 1950s.

Opening on Saturday 12 October for four performances, the production - the culmination of a semester's work by up-and-coming Sydney Conservatorium of Music postgraduate students - takes place in the 'Gran Casino de Sevilla', the jewel in the crown of the dictatorial Count's numerous casino holdings.

Director Narelle Yeo, who formerly directed in the opera program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and is now studying her Doctor of Musical Arts at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, believes that resituating the production in the 1950s brings a new level of meaning to Mozart's best-loved farcical opera.

"It is difficult to update classical works, and Mozart in particular, firstly because the plethora of traditional productions make us think that Mozart's exploration of gender and class relationships are particular to his time. In fact, the themes are stunningly universal, and proof of Mozart's genius," Yeo says.

"Looking back on the fifties, we now see it as a time when gender roles were very clear and there was more tacit acceptance of class difference. Our perceptions of the 1950s have strong parallels with the intricacies of Mozart's world," Yeo says.

The stylised casino setting, Yeo says, also makes Mozart's intricate social commentary and sophisticated comedy relevant to a modern audience.

"Casting the Count as the Casino Boss allows the audience to ponder how he got his wealth and power, suggesting he may have been operating on the edge of legality to achieve his high status. The Gran Casino paints a clear picture of the gradations of wealth and power and the tensions caused by the upstairs/downstairs clash."

The Sydney Conservatorium of Music's bi-annual opera productions have been the launching pad for some of Australia's most prominent names in opera, such as Dame Joan Sutherland, Yvonne Kenny, Amelia Farrugia and Lyndon Terracini. Graduates are employed at all of the world's major opera houses, including the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera Covent Garden, La Scala Milan, and the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

"The Marriage of Figaro is one of the most complete operatic comedies ever written. It mixes Mozart's stunningly beautiful music with exquisite farce, and offers the kinds of roles performers dream of," Yeo says. "Our cast are lucky to be performing Figaro so early in their careers!"

The Marriage of Figaro will be performed by two alternating casts, with principal performers Alexander Knight and Andrew Williams playing Figaro, Jenny Liu and Audrey Gabor the role of Susanna, Jared Lillehagen and Andrew Woodley as the Count, Carmen Young and Sarah Toth as Countess and Corinne Parker and Rebecca Moret as Marcellina.

The production is directed by Narelle Yeo, with music by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Mould.

About the production:

Head croupier Figaro and head waitress Susanna are about to marry, but the Count has designs on Susanna. He plans to exercise his "droit de seigneur", the right of the boss to bed his minions. What better day to exercise that right than on Susanna's wedding day?

On one event-filled day, the Count's plans are foiled by a series of hilarious events, as high roller Bartolo, the head housekeeper Marcellina, the music producer Basilio, the bellboy Cherubino, his girlfriend Barbarina, and the gardener Antonio intersect over the craps table.

A perfect blend of musical brilliance and farce, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music's Marriage of Figaro will delight and surprise audiences of all ages.

Event details:

What: The Marriage of Figaro

When: Saturday 12, Tuesday 15, Thursday 17 October 6.30pm, Sunday 19 October 2pm

Where: the Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Cnr Bridge and Macquarie Streets, Sydney

Cost: Adults $50 | Concession $40 | Friends of the Con $35 | Students $20 (booking fees may apply)

Bookings: via City Recital Hall, Angel Place - 1300 797 118


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Media enquiries: Katie Szittner, 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809, katie.szittner@sydney.edu.au