Mozart’s classic four-act comic opera, an adaptation with Da Ponte of Beaumarchais’ banned 1778 play about warring masters and servants, is delightfully brought to life as Glyndebourne’s 2022 tour reaches the Liverpool Empire with this satirical and deeply human drama.
As the day of Figaro (Alexander Miminoshvili) and Susanna’s (Soraya Mafi) wedding arrives, it becomes clear that their master, Count Almaviva (George Humphreys), is keen to exercise his ‘droit du seigneur’ – his right to bed a servant girl on her wedding night – and they conspire with the forsaken Countess, Rosina (Nardus Williams), to outwit her husband and teach him a lesson in fidelity. Plans however are thrown awry when Bartolo (Henry Waddington), seeking revenge against Figaro for thwarting his own earlier plans to marry Rosalina, tries to force Figaro to marry Marcellina (Madeleine Shaw), a woman old enough to be his mother, much to the amusement of Don Basilio (Colin Judson). As if things couldn’t get any worse, the amorous teenager Cherubino (Ida Ränzlöv) pitches up infatuated by anything in a skirt, followed by the young Barbarina (Charlotte Bowden) who is equally infatuated with him. Throw in a drunken gardener (Nicholas Folwell), Don Curzio (Stephen Mills), a couple of bridesmaids (Ffion Edwards; Jessica Ouston) and The Glyndebourne Chorus, and what follows is a myriad of twists and turns as deception counters scheming and misunderstandings foil conspiracies as the plot delightfully unravels.
This was a revival of Michael Grandage’s 2012 production, overseen here by director Ian Rutherford, which brought the setting forward to 1960s Spain although whether this was a nod towards free love or a hint at the perils of dictatorship is uncertain, but Christopher Oram’s set provides a rich palette with its fusion of Christian and Moorish architecture which is more than a match for the colourful costumes. There is more to opera than just the singing and Kieran Sheehan as Revival Movement Director provides great choreography throughout with some hilarious synchronised dance routines that are a perfect parody of Shakespeare, intended or otherwise, with some well-timed slaps when needed.
There is an emphasis on youth with Glyndebourne tours and nowhere is this more obvious than their choice of Stephanie Childress as conductor under whose capable hands the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra gave us an assured and fluid performance.
All the cast performed strongly with good harmonies from Miminoshvili’s canny Figaro through to Humphrey’s sleazy Count, whilst Waddington’s smug Bartolo was matched by Shaw’s imperious Marcellina. Williams gave us a Countess with dignity in contrast to Judson’s slimier Don Basilio.
Ränzlöv was a delight as she embraced her inner ‘man’ and brought humour and energy to the stage at every turn, and a special mention for Bowden who breathed life into Barbarina, hinting at a bright future and it was no surprise to discover that she was Jerwood Young Artist 2022.
Mozart’s divine comedy thrives or falters by its Susanna and Mafi was in perfect voice as she handled with apparent ease the many demands of the role, balancing emotion and performance throughout with great comic touches, and I look forward to seeing what she does next.
But – and there is one unfortunately – overall, the production lacked that little bit of chemistry between some characters and, in conjunction with the orchestra, the much needed ‘oomph’ to provide the frenzy to this frenetic piece, which at times left it feeling a little drawn out and elongated although it came in pretty much on or about time: there was nothing wrong with it but something was missing.
Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is one of Glyndebourne’s Autumn tour productions, further details available at https://www.glyndebourne.com/tour/
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 24th November 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★