As you may already have heard, Opera Australia announced this afternoon that its new production of Le nozze di Figaro, by débuting director Benedict Andrews, has been postponed until 2012 for financial reasons. Instead we'll see the same cast(s) in a revival of Neil Armfield's production. Press release runs as follows:
Opera Australia today announced the postponement of Benedict Andrews' new production of The Marriage of Figaro which was to have been presented at the Sydney Opera House and the Arts Centre, Melbourne as part of the 2010 season. Opera Australia has given a commitment that Andrews' exciting new production will be presented in 2012.
The decision to postpone was taken because the cost of building a new production presented a financial risk that Opera Australia and its Board could not take at a time when it is working to recover from the impact of the global financial crisis.
It will be replaced by a revival of Neil Armfield's production of the same opera, where sets and costumes are already made.
"Like many other companies around the world, we have had to review our program in the light of recent economic circumstances," said Chief Executive, Adrian Collette. "I am very sorry we have had to postpone Benedict Andrews' production of The Marriage of Figaro," said Mr Collette.
"Given the difficult economic circumstances we have had to trade through for the past twelve months, we are simply not in a position to cash flow the manufacture of new sets and costumes for the production in 2010. But we remain committed to realising Benedict's production in our 2012 season".
Opera Australia was to have presented five new productions in 2010. "Of our other new productions, Bliss is already built, and Tosca, La sonnambula and The Girl of the Golden West are co-productions with other companies. These can all be presented as planned," he said.
It's an unexpected but not entirely surprising decision, if you know what I mean. Not exactly a bombshell of Cheryl-Tosca magnitude, at any rate. The 2010 season is such a GFC sort of season anyway that one more concession to finances shouldn't really come as a shock. (Lucky for Adrian that he has the "it's a co-production" excuse for Tosca, though, or I'd be in Surry Hills picketing for them to keep Andrews and ditch Christopher Alden instead. But never mind.)
And while I was reasonably curious to see Andrews's gated community Figaro, I'm far from dismayed that we'll be revisiting Armfield's production instead. I like the way it blends quirky modernism with eighteenth century trappings; and at the risk of sounding like a stuff I traditionalist I must say that after utterly modern productions of both Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte, it's a bit of a relief to think we're not losing our last bit of brocaded Mozart just yet. Evidently the company has committed to staging the new production in 2012. A lot can change in a couple of years, though. I can't help wondering whether the gated community concept will appeal as much to Andrews then as it does now; here's hoping this unexpected delay helps, rather than hinders, the development of his vision.
Anyway, the most appealing part of this Figaro was always the cast, and especially the marvellous array of baritones singing Figaro and the Count — two of my absolute favourites and others whom I like very much indeed, which means I'm probably going to see this Figaro more times than is either necessary or sensible. I whinge about the ubiquitousness of "Hai gia vinta la causa" in vocal competitions, but in context it's a very different matter, and I can't waiting to hear both Peter Coleman-Wright and José Carbo (be still, my beating baritone-heart) sink their teeth into it. I'm also particularly excited about Tiffany Speight's Susanna (and Taryn Fiebig's, if it's as lovely as her Sicle), Dominica Matthews's Cherubino and, above all, Jacqui Dark's Marcellina. It's nice as well to see that chorus member (and almost-millionaire) Clifford Plumpton will sing Antonio.
Meanwhile, speaking of changes to the season, the one which hasn't had a press release is the announcement, at last of our Minnie for the new production of La fanciulla del West. Lisa Gasteen has already pulled out of the role by the time the 2010 season was launched, but it's taken until now for OA to announce, at long last, that she'll be replaced by Anke Hoeppner. I wholeheartedly applaud this decision — of the likely options, she's surely the most appealing, she's already sung in this production in Perth, and after saving the day in both Vec Makropulos and Fidelio, it's about time she was back on our stage in her own right.