By WILLIAM DART

There are no crinolines and powdered wigs in NBR New Zealand Opera's The Marriage of Figaro. Instead we have the glitz and glamour of the contemporary fashion world.

Count Almaviva is a libidinous lord of haute couture, surrounded by a chorus of minions waving rulers and assorted pieces of cloth.

Although the concept occasionally stretches credibility, John Parker's ingenious set is a bonus, the ultimate chic in mirrors and metal.

Its all great fun, but Figaro should dig a little deeper. Its characters are not merely puppets in a stylish clash of the classes, and director Colin McColl sometimes denies them their essential humanity.

Figaro delivering "Se vuol ballare" rooted within a Brechtian square is a worrying portent, and as the opera progresses, singers are continually being brought down to the footlights to address the audience in lighting that one might expect in sinister moments of Sweeney Todd.

On the whole, this Figaro is musically sound. The two offshore soloists are solid, although Roderick Earle's Count is overly tested in the final moments of his "Vedro mentr'io sospiro" and Mark Stone's lightish Figaro is often affable when more clout is needed.

With the class one might expect from an International House of Fashion, Patricia Wright's Countess copes regally with Martin Andre's almost disrespectful scurry through "Dove sono".

Andrea Creighton takes Susanna beyond mere pertness. If there ever was to be a takeover bid in the House of Almaviva, this woman would be spearheading it.

With her assured, clear soprano supplying the focus of so many ensembles, Creighton makes the most of Mozart's delicious recitatives, especially when paired with Wright or Richard Greager.

Among other local singers, Sarah Castle's swaggering but sweet-voiced Cherubino works well, as does Katherine Wile's Barbarina, a punkette in orange whose Fourth Act cavatina might be occasioned by more than just sorrow over a lost pin.

There are chortles and guffaws when Richard Greager's Basilio minces on, wearing David Hockney glasses that could possibly see through speedos at 60 paces.

At the macho end of the spectrum, Richard Green's Antonio would pass as a recalcitrant gang member doing community service.

But the biggest crowd-pleaser is the final curtain call, as the cast sashay, stalk and stroll along the catwalk to Craig Sengelow's outrageous "mix" of the overture - a brilliant way of bringing a young New Zealand composer onto the team.

Now all the company needs is to tackle is a homegrown opera .