THE 2019 Celebrate Voice festival is in full swing in the pop-up Wilson’s Piccolo Theatre in Salisbury’s Guildhall Square, and after two days of jazz, cabaret and song, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro took to the stage on Sunday afternoon.
In the six years since Lynsey Docherty created the festival, it established itself as one of the city’s annual highlights, bringing song and music for everyone, whatever their age and musical tastes. This year, concentrating all the events in the one eye-catching central venue, she has also introduced comedy to the line-up.
Lynsey’s own background as an opera singer means that opera has always been at the heart of the festival, and this year’s production brings back favourite singers from the 2018 Don Giovannni at the Medieval Hall. Richard Studer’s small-scale production is ideally suited to the intimate surroundings of the venue, though perhaps the matinee audience would have welcomed less revving-up from the motorcyclists making their weekend circuits of the Market Square.
The human voice is always vulnerable to various lurgies, and one such attacked not only Lynsey, due to sing Marcellina, but also Daisy Brown, who managed magnificently for two acts as Susanna, but was forced to give up (most of) the unequal battle in the second half, handing the singing over to Bethany Woolgrove, who also had her own role of Barbarina to look after. The company was lucky to be able to call on mezzo Anne-Marie Owens, who sped to Salisbury to sing the Marcellina role, with Lynsey acting it. It was extraordinary to see two singers deputising, while the original performers acted their socks off as well as perfectly synchronising with their vocal halves. A miracle of professionalism and skill.
Philip Smith, one-time National Otter Surveyor for the UK, returns to Salisbury after his Don Giovanni in 2018 as the selfish, lusty Count Almaviva, determined to exercise his droit de seigneur on his servant Figaro’s wedding night. Nick Dwyer (last year’s Masetto) is a clever but confusedly jealous Figaro.
The superb almost septuagenarian actor/singer Bonaventura Bottone makes the very most of the roles of Basilio and Don Curzio, charismatically magnetising all eyes every time he’s on stage.
Daisy Brown’s Susanna was a sheer delight, and Amy Blake captures the poignancy of the much-wronged Countess. Anna Starushkevych’s Cherubino had all the ardour of a teenage boy.
The black and white costumes were dramatically effective, but perhaps the make up is a bit too much for a small and dimly lit space.
Mozart’s marvellous music is a challenge for any player, and accompanist and MD Phillip Thomas once again astounded the audience with his brilliant account.
The Marriage of Figaro will be performed again on 29th and 30th October and 1st November at 7.30, when the singers hope their voices will have returned for the celebration.