The Marriage of Figaro

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
English Touring Opera
York Theatre Royal

The Marriage of Figaro (1786) is one of the most delightful operas ever composed. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious being Mozart’s extraordinary music, which surpasses all of his other works for the stage. Another crucial factor, however, is that Figaro benefits from a brilliantly structured comedic plot, and for this we must thank the French dramatist Pierre Beaumarchais, whose 1778 play inspired Mozart’s masterpiece.

Set in the palace of Count Almaviva (David Kimberg) near Seville, the opera focuses on the upcoming wedding of Figaro (Ross Ramgobin), the Count’s valet, to Susannah (Rachel Redmond), who serves as maid to the Countess (Nadine Benjamin).

The servants’ nuptials are endangered by the predatory Count, who wishes to sleep with Susannah on her wedding day. Angered by their master’s disgraceful behaviour, the servants conspire with the wronged Countess and others members of the household to thwart his lustful intentions. Thus begins a plot filled with scheming, intrigue, quick costume changes and unexpected revelations.

Director Blanche McIntyre offers audiences a highly traditional take on The Marriage of Figaro, but this is not a complaint as her production is finely attuned to the comedy and pathos of Mozart’s opera. The only real misstep for me was the opening scene, a self-aware dumb show in which the performers greet each other, slap each other on the back, take selfies and get into their costumes. This framing device struck me as rather superfluous, particularly as it never reappears.

This production’s overriding traditionalism is also reflected in Neil Irish’s handsome costumes and set designs, which are practical and unfussy. That being said, I was put in mind of Crossroads whenever I saw the set wobble.

Despite these minor complaints, I thoroughly enjoyed Blanche McIntyre’s brisk, purposeful production, and this is largely due to the high quality of its performers.

Ross Ramgobin, who impressed me so much in an earlier production of Patience, gives a spirited and energetic performance as Figaro. He is amply matched by the engaging Rachel Redmond, who sings beautifully and skilfully captures Susanna’s chutzpah.

Sporting a ridiculous fop wig, David Kimberg excels as the villainous Count Almaviva. He manages to appear genuinely contrite at the end of the opera, whilst leaving us in no doubt that he will continue to be an avowed love rat. Nadine Benjamin gives a wrenching, heartfelt performance as the Countess, a woman whose husband doesn’t return her affections.

The supporting cast are highly impressive, but I would like to highlight Katherine’s Aitken’s funny and touching performance as Cherubino, a reckless, love-sick youth. Her rendition of “Voi che sapete” held the audience spellbound.

The talented cast are matched by ETO’s excellent orchestra, confidently conducted by Christopher Stark.

The Marriage of Figaro continues ETO’s tradition of producing enchanting and operas for the general public. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: James Ballands

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