JUST as the world’s press is full of news of striking movie actors, fighting for their place against the invisible but encroaching forces of Artificial Intelligence, up comes Bath Opera with a production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro played out on a film set, where the casting couch is king and #MeToo is finding its feet.
Count Almaviva is transposed to a powerful movie mogul, able to get his way with the younger hopefuls while he neglects his long-suffering leading lady wife. Figaro is a script-writer and Susanna an aspiring actress, and Cherubino a girl-mad runner. All this is explained, in words rather than recitative, by Antonio, a drunken garden set designer and keen observer.
The idea, hatched by director William Stevens, works pretty well for a touring company with limited resources and minimal sets, touring to many different venues. The script (by Stevens) is witty, underlining the implausible silliness of the da Ponte original, and it is well performed by Dave Key Pugh, a regular singing actor on stages in and around Bath.
Company regular Niall Hoskin plays the powerful but unappealing man who insists on being called The Count, head of the Almaviva Studios, with Andrew Havers (who sang Leporello in a previous company production) as his writer and fixer Figaro. Anna Fitzgerald, who delighted audiences in Eugene Onegin, returns as the screen goddess, and Canadian Katy Garden makes her company debut as a spirited Susanna. Another newcomer, Gabriella Eels, a former head chorister at Devizes and Wells Cathedral School scholar, is a spunky Cherubino.
Biosciences professor Roderick Hunt joins Bath Opera to play Bartolo, his wonderfully rounded and sonorous bass, coupled with a wicked sense of humour and perfect timing, enliven his brief moments on stage. Bruna Figueredo makes an all-too-short appearance as Barbarina – audiences will be looking and listening out for her in future productions.
The cast is completed by another Bath Opera regular, Katharine Adams, as the eager Marcellina, here a failed actress keen to marry a successful member of the Almaviva studio, but quite content with Bartolo – and the return of her kidnapped son, instead, and Bath Spa music student Alexander Pinkstone as the flamboyant Don Basilio.
Holding it all together is pianist Emma Cayeux, unfazed by Mozart’s signature “too many notes.”
The next Bath Opera production will be Handel’s Semele, next February in Bath, directed by Dave Key Pugh and including the unexpected arrival of the gods and goddesses of the Twittersphere!