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Opera review: Raise a glass and toss some confetti for amazing Figaro's Wedding

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Atg Theatre, photo: Roger Rousseau
Miriam Khalil is the happy bride Susanna and Stephen Hegedus is Figaro in Figaro’s Wedding, which opened on Wednesday night (Atg Theatre, photo: Roger Rousseau).

A hip, loft-like event space, smart English-language libretto, cellphone videos and surreptitious text messages would amount to nothing if Art were left waiting forlornly at the altar. But not to worry, Against the Grain’s latest operatic escapade, Figaro’s Wedding is the real, satisfying deal.

What a way to close a music season in Toronto, a city awash in opera: Based on what I witnessed on the top floor of the Burroughes Building at Queen and Bathurst Sts, Wednesday night’s premiere was a case study in exactly how to update a classic.

Not only that, the cast was wonderful and the musical accompaniment entirely appropriate.

One of the many joys of going to a Mozart opera is to revel in the wonderful ensemble pieces. They’re all present and accounted for here — while fully acknowledging what a wedding would actually be like if Figaro and Susanna were getting married in Toronto during the summer of 2013.

It’s not an easy thing to organize, you see: Susanna is not speaking to her parents, so they’re not helping out or showing up; Figaro was a foster child with no family to turn to, either, and has a love-hate relationship with his boss Alberto (Mozart and da Ponte’s Count Almaviva).

Alberto and wife Rosina’s marriage has seen better days as his eye strays in Susanna’s direction and his wife is tempted by the advances of Cherubino — who is deep into exploring her lesbian side.

These dynamics are tossed into the hothouse atmosphere of a wedding rehearsal, and emotional fireworks ensue.

Stage director Joel Ivany and music director Christopher Mokrzewski have fashioned an all-new English-language libretto that rollicks along at a brisk clip. There is plenty to entertain an opera newbie — and a steady volley of inside-joke material to keep opera diehards chuckling from beginning to end.

The cast sings beautifully in solos as well as Mozart’s ensemble arias and is able to act capably in a setting that has performers and audience in very close proximity throughout.

The Against the Grain Theatre team hasn’t missed a single detail as they have commandeered two rough-hewn, old-warehouse rooms for their production.

To single out particular singers seems unfair in this thoroughly satisfying operatic experience. Suffice it to say that sopranos Miriam Khalil, Lisa DiMaria and Teiya Kasahara, mezzo Loralie Kirkpatrick, tenor Michael Ciufo, baritones Alexander Dobson and Gregory Finney and bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus fulfill their roles flawlessly.

Mokrzewski, conducting from the piano, heads up the musical flow admirably, with the help of a string quartet made up of members of the Music in the Barns Chamber Ensemble.

invitationRosemarie Umetsu’s delicate green-and-white wedding gown is a star in and of itself, and the rest of the design team — Jason Hand with lights and Erika Connors and Patrick DuWors on costumes and sets — have done a brilliant job.

The programmes look like wedding invitations. The white chairs are straight out of a wedding rental truck. The guests get to stand up as the happy couple processes down the aisle — and are free to bring bar drinks to their seat.

This is a show where everyone involved went all-in on this update of a beloved classic and have come out with the most entertaining opera production of the season in Toronto.

Raise your glass and toss some confetti — after you make sure you get a ticket before this engrossing musical escapade closes on Sunday.

You’ll get all the details on buying a ticket here.

John Terauds

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