Dragon spices up Figaro

DragonDiva Theatre presents The Marriage of Figaro — Indian style — at Coquitlam
DragonDiva Theatre presents The Marriage of Figaro — Indian style — at Coquitlam's Evergreen Cultural Centre.
— image credit: photo submitted

An Italian-sung comic opera penned by an Austrian composer and set in Spain will move this month to India for a Coquitlam show.

The highly innovative DragonDiva Operatic Theatre will present The Marriage of Figaro, its third Opera on the Lake production at the Evergreen Cultural Centre.

Last year, the New Westminster-based company romped it up with Candide while in 2012 it put a spin on The Old Maid and the Thief, the first radio opera commissioned by NBC in 1939.

For Figaro, artistic director Jeanine Fynn wanted to spice things up with Mozart’s piece — a cornerstone of operatic repertoire — by setting it in India instead of Seville, Spain.

“We wanted to take a year to do something very traditional,” said music director and board president John Arsenault, “however, we can never do anything in the traditional style.”

When the opera premiered in Paris, France,  more than 200 years ago, it caused a scandal because the maid, Susanna — a servant — outwits her employer, who is an aristocrat.

And since the script by Pierre Beaumarchais was based on the class divide back then, DragonDiva made it current by relocating the scenes to India, where a caste system remains today. “It’s really a story about people and relationships and faithfulness,” Arsenault said.

Riley McMitchell, the company vice president who portrays the philandering Count, said the actors have had to be quick studies of the Indian culture since rehearsals began in June.

The costumes have changed from suits and gowns to kurtas, sarees and turbans. As well, to smooth the transition, a friend of McMitchell’s from Mumbai was recruited to refine the ethnic gestures. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t doing anything that might be offensive to that culture,” Arsenault said, “and we wanted to be somewhat authentic.”

McMitchell, who is a teacher at Coquitlam’s Lord Baden-Powell elementary, said the clothing and sets are visually stunning, with bright colours and decorations.

As for the opera, it’s nothing new to McMitchell, who played the Count four years ago — with Arsenault conducting — in Vancouver with The Opera Project.

Still, “that was in concert and it’s a huge opera to memorize so it’ll be a lot different for me this time around,” he said.

Besides McMitchell, the DragonDiva ensemble of 13 includes Royal City resident Melissa Bideau as the Countess, Katrin Poemmerl as Susanna and and Henry Chen as Figaro.

“It’s not just your typical opera production,” McMitchell said. “DragonDiva always has a unique spin on things and we think setting it in India presents a really unique perspective.

“For someone who hasn’t seen The Marriage of Figaro before, it’s a really interesting gateway to opera. And for anyone who has seen it, the Indian set-up is such a great concept.”




Tickets to Opera on the Lake’s The Marriage of Figaro are $25.

Sponsored by The Tri-City News, the show runs on Aug. 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 24 at 2 p.m.

Admission includes complimentary coffee and dessert afterward. Call the box office at 604-927-6555 or visit evergreenculturalcentre.ca.


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