Our Verdict: A beautiful performance of a Mozart Classic
Our Rating: 10/10
Wednesday 16 March 2016 at 19.00pm
Sung in English with English Surtitles
What an outstandingly beautiful performance and what a stunning cast. It’s been a long time since I have seen a cast work and gel so well together, especially in such a complex work.
Nobody messes with Mozart. Not even the WNO have tinkered with this hugely popular opera relying on everything the composer has written into this comic romp. All we need are the performers to take to the stage and the ingredients are all there – beautiful music, ridiculous humour, belly laughs, intrigue, deceit, lies and ultimately redemption through love.
The understated set acts as the perfect blank canvas for the music and the sumptuous costumes transport us right back to the 1790s. During the incoming, contemporary actors mill about the stage warming up for the performance until Figaro dashes on. We are deliberately reminded that despite the passage of time, the themes and subject matter remains the same today.
In fact, the twists and turns of this complex storyline weave much like an intelligent and enlightened precursor to the Jeremy Kyle Show. Well the odd bits I’ve seen during channel hopping.
The opera is one of the most performed across the world so of course, it has its pOp hits such as Figaro’s taunting Non più andrai which works brilliant with Jeremy Sams’ translation. Voi che sapete che cosa è amor is another pOp hit and of course, Sull’aria…che soave zeffiretto – yes we did hear some of you collectively mutter Shawshank Redemption – though overall I always find it harder to shake Shaffer’s Amadeus from The Marriage of Figaro.
Conductor Timothy Burke held those busy strings together brilliantly in the overture, which in this opera must be rather like steering a tank through a glass shop. Of course, the opener is a perfect musical juxtaposition for the reflection in both Susanna and the Countess’ arias, performed with breathtaking beauty by both singers.
David Stout is a marvellously affable and loveable Figaro, starting out measuring space for the 18th century version of an Ikea bed. He is very well matched with Anna Devin’s bright, witty and intelligent Susanna. Naomi O’Connell as the page Cherubino, is a scene stealer with her perfectly portrayed disorderly youth. And Elizabeth Watts gives an incredibly dignified performance of the sorrowful countess. All work well together in their attempts to fool Mark Stone’s Count Almaviva. It would have been better to see more character development for Stone instead of such single minded determination, which left the reconciliation with the Countess at the end a little hurried and cold.
Definitely a mention has to go to Susan Bickley’s Marcellina. It seems such a shame that her Il capro e la capretta, had such a great delivery but the direction came across as if she had simply wandered onto the stage by mistake. This aria, especially in this translation, definitely goes with the mixing modern with traditional opening director Tobias Richter gave us at the beginning. The themes are still strong today and this deserved better attention.
The Marriage of Figaro will be at The Bristol Hippodrome again on Saturday 19 March at 19.00pm.
It’s a wonderfully uplifting performance and a perfect Saturday night treat.