In 2013 Against the Grain offered the first of their “transladaptations” of one of the trilogy of da Ponte-Mozart operas, Figaro’s Wedding.
Tonight AtG premiered something we might call a revival of the work, with a number of intriguing differences, the first of twelve performances at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse.
Sequels and revivals can be especially challenging, because the stakes are higher. We were excited by a new concept in 2013. This time, knowing the premise, could it work as well?
It could and it did.
In 2013 it was lighter & cuter. Tonight we encountered something darker. Where the first take was delightful & energetic, this time there was a bit more weight.
Rosina is pregnant. Last time we wondered if they would reconcile at the end but it had the colours of a romantic comedy. This time felt more like Shakespeare, pondering deeper meanings & consequences.
We were in a different sort of space this time, which may have impacted acoustics. Last time Topher Mokrzewski achieved miracles of precision, where this time we danced on the edge of chaos. But the result had weight, the voices placed at the service of storytelling.
There’s a special magic we get from the scenes in the round, watching an audience seduced & spellbound on the other side of the action staring in wonderment. Director Joel Ivany gets spectacular performances from every member of his cast in this wonderfully intimate performance, where we’re at times inches away from the singers.
We do indeed see a wonderful wedding between Figaro & Susanna. Bruno Roy is a vulnerable & likable Figaro, Alexandra Smither a passionate volatile Susanna, every second meaningful & never letting the illusion fade.
Miriam Khalil, our Susanna in 2013, is now Rosina opposite Phillip Addis as Alberto Almaviva. I believe Ivany’s darker reading begins with the fact of his wife’s pregnancy, lending true gravitas to the story. Where we wondered about the playful ending last time, this time? they’re playing for keeps. Khalil continues to be Ivany’s muse and the centre of gravity for the production. Addis is a fascinating contrast, a very dark presence for much of the show, but turning the last act into something wildly comical with his pelvic dance moves.
The modernized reading works quite well, or perhaps it’s just easier to accept the second time around. The final act shenanigans on the dancefloor –and everyone gets into the act—serve to set up the action quite nicely. I didn’t expect it to be so believable.
And speaking of shenanigans, the rest of the cast might be testimony confirming Stanislavski’s truism that there are no small parts, just small actors. Lauren Eberwein continues to be just about the most watchable singing actor in Toronto, hysterically funny in her scenes in Rusalka and again demonstrating a gift for comedy in her over the top approach to Cherubino. Greg Finney is delightful as Bartolo, underplaying while getting the best laugh of the night with a line that more or less brings the house down to end Act III. Amazing. But I won’t be a beast and steal the joke.
Maria Soulis as Marcellina and Jacques Arsenault as Basilio both have great moments, especially in that wild & woolly last act.
Everybody and I mean everybody had a great time. If you want a fun night at the theatre go see Figaro’s Wedding. Don’t be surprised if you’re not just laughing but profoundly moved.
Figaro’s Wedding continues at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse until December 20th.