CONTINUING their theme of revenge, which runs through the three productions WNO are touring this spring, Mozart’s delightful comic opera followed the dramatic Carmen into the Bristol Hippodrome.
Presented and costumed on much more traditional lines than Carmen, director Max Hoehn’s The Marriage of Figaro (recreating Tobias Richter’s original) sets out to explore and exploit the comedy in Mozart’s opera.
There is no question of searching for hidden subplots or highlighting the political and sexual themes that may lie beneath the surface. As a result, the last scenes in Act 1 with Cherubino and Susanna swapping places in Contessa d’Almaviva’s dressing room before Cherubino leaps out of the window to escape detection, ends in pure farce.
There was nothing farcical or muddled about the musical content from Jonathan McGovern’s Count d’Almaviva,, full of jealous rage. Anita Watson, as the Contessa, her pure delicate tones nicely balanced by Soraya Mafi’s bright confident Susanna and David Ireland making excellent use of his finely controlled bass- baritone delivery as he thinks on his feet in response to each new challenge.
Equally well balanced, providing terrific support for soloist and chorus alike, here as they did throughout the opera, was the WNO Orchestra, playing at the top of their game. As indeed they should with Carlo Rizzi not only in complete control, but exuding the feeling that this was one of his favourite works which he knew by heart, and thoroughly enjoyed conducting.
It was no wonder with director, singers and musicians all on the same wavelength, that the twists and turns of the plot could be exploited to create so much fun.
Leah-Marian Jones and Henry Waddington, as Figaro’s more mature would- be bride Marcellina and her legal representative Doctor Bartolo, were certainly in no mood to miss any comic opportunities and without sacrificing any vocal quality pushed their characterizations to the limit.
Anna Harvey, in fine vocal form, in the “trouser” role of Cherubino, could have been given a few more opportunities to show of the comedy mime skills she obviously has.
This well balanced production was not just one long chase after laughter. Anita Watson’s thoughtful examination of her relationship with her husband Conte d’Almaviva, ‘Dove sono?’ was sung with great sensitivity. The famous letter duet between Anita and Soraya Mafi , ‘Che soave zeffiretto’ which followed provided an admirable bridge between drama and comedy. Jonathan McGovern was also not afraid to show the hypocritical selfish side of the amorous Conte.
In the end it was a case of revenge was sweet, not vicious and tragic, which left the audience to leave having enjoyed an evening full of good music and fun.
The WNO production of The Marriage of Figaro is also at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton on 18th and 20th March.