News / Ottawa

Opera review: The Marriage of Figaro fit for 20-somethings

Opera: The Marriage of Figaro

Date seen: Opening night on March 21

Length: Four acts (about three hours)

When I showed up to the opera in my Value Village dress and old lipstick, I expected to feel like an underdressed, uncultured millennial.

I had never been to the opera before watching The Marriage of Figaro at its opening night on March 21.

As it turns out, I am the type of person Opera Lyra wants in the seats at the National Arts Centre. The 31-year-old Ottawa opera company is trying to draw a younger crowd to its shows, with a younger cast and more modern time periods.

Mozart’s comedy may be the right pitch for those 20-somethings who spend Saturday nights streaming TV shows. It has all the drama of daytime cable: infidelity, love, twists and a bit of slapstick. In short, Figaro wants to marry maid Susanna, but Count Almaviva is also trying to seduce her. His wife is unsurprisingly unimpressed. Almost everyone plays tricks on everyone else in the pursuit of love and happily ever after.

Characters to watch

It’s striking how Wallis Giunta, the face of McCaffrey Haute Couture, can strip the bridal gowns, put on a suit and convincingly play randy pageboy Cherubino chasing after the ladies. Her real-life partner, baritone John Brancy, is playful as Figaro while fellow baritone James Westman is hilariously aloof.

Star Sasha Djihanian dazzles as lady-every-man-wants Susanna.

Period dress

Although Mozart wrote The Marriage of Figaro in the late 1700s, Opera Lyra sets the tone in the early 1900s. Downton Abbey fans will recognize the Edwardian England backdrop and black tuxes.

But how to I dress?

I expected ball gowns and tuxedos. But they were almost as rare as the jeans-and-sweater-wearing part of the crowd. Semi-formal seemed the norm, but it was opening night. It seems like almost anything goes, so don’t take out a loan on a new outfit, but clean up a little.

Other things that surprised me

• None of the singers wear microphones, but their powerful voices blend into the orchestra.

• You don’t need to memorize the play on Wikipedia ahead of time to follow along. Surtitles above the stage tell the gist of what the characters are singing about.

• While the average age is likely around 50, there were many young faces in the audience.

The Marriage of Figaro is playing Wednesday, March 25 and again on Saturday, March 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $25.

Opera in the capital next season

An Iraq jail, 1940s film set and bullying. Old stuffy opera? Not at Opera Lyra. The local company is shaking up the traditional theatre.

The Barber of Seville

Sept. 26, 28 and 30, Oct. 3, 2015


A 1940s movie studio set serves as the backdrop to Rossini’s show about a young actress.


Oct. 16-18, 2015

Great Canadian Theatre Company

This is a double-bill from Toronto’s Essential Opera. Etiquette is about New York writer Dorothy Parker’s harsh take on the original “Miss Manners” or Emily Post. Regina is about the first woman to be ordained rabbi, who died in a concentration camp.

Operation Superpower

Oct. 24, 25, 31, 2015

Arts Court Theatre

A children’s show about using musical superpowers to overcome bullying.


March 19, 23, 26, 2016


Beethoven’s only opera will be retold in an Iraq jail, circa 2003.

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