Marriage of Figaro,
Director Fiona Shaw,
English National Opera
This second outing of Fiona Shaw’s Figaro has mellowed and matured in the few years since the last time it graced the ENO stage. The wit is still there, the endless movement and revolving stage allowing us insight and side squints into the upstairs/downstairs business of this grand space and the status and levels of perception of all the various people that live in the palace of Count Almaviva outside Seville.
The cast is nigh on perfect too, as good a Mozart cast as you could get and this just brings the essential silly charming froth of this most delightful of Mozart Opera’s to the fore. Four of the main cast were debuting in their roles, which is of note and they all shone. Mary Bevan’s Susanna is a wonderful study of voice and character becoming more confident throughout the action and the evening, by the end of the night, triumphant in every way she was stunning. His interactions with Lucy Schaufer’s delicious Marcellina were wonderfully funny with an arch comedy timing that was spot on; whenever they were on stage together they shone with glee and bravado.
Samantha Price’s Cherubino was fully of shy foolishness and purity and allowed her voice to fill the house with its fine clean spotless legato, charming everyone on and off the stage. David Stout’s Figaro gives us a studied performance of strength, with just the right touch of tenacious winging-it that the fast turning plot requires, this is a man who can rise to all challenges even if he’s not entirely sure what they might be. Stout and Bevan are a delightful pairing too, really believable devotion between them
Sarah-Jane Brandon’s very human Countess Almaviva is stoic, heartbroken and utterly set on her course of action, from her frantic worry, to the sneaky gulping of sherry Brandon managed to make us love the Countess even when her singing was as coolly perfect as is required in this study of status and dignity, perfectly balanced.
All this polished light froth combined to conspire against the rather darker and exasperated jealousy of Benedict Nelson’s Count who still charmed us into liking him with the great warmth of his singing although his baritone went a-wandering on occasion, but was soon brought back on track.
Jaime Martin conducted the ENO orchestra with a pinpoint precision, allowing the music to bounce and skip fully layered with the complex frivolity while keeping the narrative tension firmly on track.
To read the synopsis and listen to an aria or two, click here:
The costumes and props are nicely anachronistic, the set ugly, suggesting a maze, but then it’s more of a suggestion than a reconstruction of this busy 18th century silliness and I rather liked the stripped down sets and their constant whirly gig of motion, there were some rather cute and funny sight gags too and I enjoyed tremendously the way the singers got to play with the movement of the stage and their own progressions through the scenes. Very well done all round. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a production so full of movement that been so convincing.
The translation by Jeremy Sams is triumphant, bringing both the spirit of the original libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte to the fore while giving it a wonderful modernity; it’s gloriously funny too and managed to keep as many of the subtly filthy sexual references that the original was famed for.
This wonderful production is warm, engaging and very funny and I’d recommend Fiona Shaw’s Figaro to any lover of Mozart or for anyone thinking about a first visit to the opera. I’m not a huge fan of Mr Mozart but leaving a production as perfectly sound; vocally and musically as this just reminds me of quite how perfect he can be and the ENO should be cheered for this fine quality production.
View the trailer here:
Marriage of Figaro plays at the ENO until November 23
October 28 & 31
November 4, 6, 8, 14,19 & 23
For more information or to book tickets, click here:
English National Opera,
St Martins Lane,
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