Director and recent Helpmann nominee Michael Gow talks about Mozart’s classic comedy The Marriage of Figaro

  • Kat Czornij
  • July 12, 2016
  • Comments Off on Director and recent Helpmann nominee Michael Gow talks about Mozart’s classic comedy The Marriage of Figaro

As part of the 2016 national tour, Riverside Theatres will present Opera Australia’s brand new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro this August. We caught up with Director and recent Helpmann nominee Michael Gow ahead of the tour to chat about Mozart’s classic comedy, stunning sets and opera in English!

Can you tell us a little bit about your vision for Opera Australia’s latest production of The Marriage of Figaro?

We want to give audiences some sense of the visual excitement that opera can have, so we’ve set in the period of composition. It’s in English so I’ve tried to make the story as clear as possible. It can be a bit convoluted and full of stray plots.

Is it more fun to direct an Opera like Figaro that is full of hilarity and colour, rather than something a bit more serious and dramatic?

My own taste tends towards big romantic and Germanic work but I’ve done almost only 18th century work, mostly Mozart. And even though Figaro is comic it has some deeply human moments.

The production at the Joan Sutherland Theatre was of course absolutely spectacular with its stunning sets. How does this translate to a venue such as Riverside Theatre?

We have only one set with minimal changes for each act. But the simple set is very beautiful, an Arcadian landscape that acts as backdrop for the characters. I’ve always been committed to less is more and I think this creates its own excitement and beauty.

Lyndon Terracini has recently said that he believes it is vital to reinvent productions regularly to make them contemporary and engaging. Do you agree, or do you also think its important to also keep true to the original work?

There’s no such thing as an original work. The audience can only see a piece through its own eyes. This doesn’t mean you have to set it now, but you can’t recreate the conditions of the first performance. Audiences’ imaginations work fast and if you give them some clues that you see some themes and stories that ring true today, they read between the lines, even while what they’re watching is set in another era. In this case the story of the lower classes showing up the hypocrisy of the upper classes still resonates.

What do you think is the most important role for a director when presenting a new production?

Having a clear reason for doing the piece in question and then communicating it first to the design team, then the performers with the ultimate aim of communicating to the audience.

The Marriage of Figaro will be sung in English, a little used language for Opera! Do you think it makes a big difference when a production is presented in the audience’s native tongue?

A huge difference. There’s a haze of boredom that can descend over theatre when it’s in a language the audience doesn’t speak. Audiences are often surprised when they hear an opera in their own language and suddenly sense that it’s actually about something and the characters are actually communicating, instead of performing a concert in costume.

And finally, do you have a favourite scene from The Marriage of Figaro?

The finale to Act 2 is incredible. It starts as a duet, becomes a trio, then a quartet, then a quintet, back to a quartet and ends as a sextet in one continuously developing piece of music. You get such a sense of Mozart’s genius as he unfolds this seamless twenty minutes of glorious music and drama.


The Marriage of Figaro will be at Riverside Theatres on the 19th and 20th of August. For more information and to book visit


This content has recently been ported from its original home on Arts on the AU and may have formatting errors – images may not be showing up, or duplicated, and galleries may not be working. We are slowly fixing these issue. If you spot any major malfunctions making it impossible to read the content, however, please let us know at editor AT