Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Librettist: Lorenzo Da Ponte
English translation: Jeremy Sams
Conductor: Lothar Koenigs
Director: Tobias Richter
Reviewer: Beth Steer
Part of the Welsh National Opera’s spring season, Figaro Forever, The Marriage of Figaro is a four act opera that sits between The Barber of Seville and Figaro Gets a Divorce to chronicle the life of one of opera’s most well-known characters.
First and foremost a human comedy, The Marriage of Figaro follows an engaged couple – Figaro (David Stout) and Susanna (Anna Devin), servants to the Count and Countess Almaviva – as they navigate the rocky path to marriage.
In attempting to avoid the Count’s (Mark Stone) seductive advances, Susanna, along with Figaro and the Countess (Elizabeth Watts), plot to deceive him by dressing up a young page, Cherubino (Naomi O’Connell) as a girl who can pretend to be Susanna – thus allowing the Countess to realise her suspicions and catch her adulterous husband in the act.
Failing this, Susanna and the Countess attempt to expose the Count’s infidelity by swapping clothes and arranging a secret meeting with him – resulting in confusion and jealousy on all parties’ behalves, as they lose track of who is who in a midst of masks, cloaks and seduction.
The performance sparkles with humour from the start, as Susanna and Figaro go from expressing their excitement at the forthcoming marriage, to playfully bickering and makes swipes at each other, In his director’s note, Tobias Richard observes that The Marriage of Figaro shows us that human behaviour is the same now as it was in Mozart’s day, in that young people fall in love, get jealous and seduce people they ought not to – and this is immediately clear from the opening act.
Backed by a phenomenal orchestra, the performers exchange heated debate, declarations of love in beautiful arias and denouncements of cuckoldry in a feisty, lively production. Swapping witty jibes that escalate into hilarious arguments, with lines such as ‘you gaudy old parakeet get back in your cage’ sung with equal beauty and malice, the performance is sassy, fluid and funny, with outstanding singing and brilliant characterisation.
Stout as Figaro is the opera’s puppet master – narrating the twists and turns in the plot to the audience with an expressive, clear manner – equally besotted, cunning and outraged in turn. As Cherubino, O’Connell, too, gives a brilliant performance – cheekily bouncing off the other characters and playing the page as minstrel, soldier and lady with light-hearted wit and charm.
The indisputable star of the show is Susanna, and Irish soprano Anna Devin executes a flawless performance. Her stompy, sassy portrayal of a feisty young bride, coupled with a crystal, spine-tingling voice, is truly a performance to behold. Her talent and vocal versatility is breathtaking, and she captivates the audience – drawing out laughter and moments of touching humility.
A production oozing with talent, The Marriage of Figaro is a brilliant performance to watch – for first time opera goers it is accessible and easy to follow, yet still maintains a deeper level of meaning, inscribing messages about gender and class alongside the playful, twisting plot. To see so much collective talent on stage is a rarity and real treat, and the beautiful closing harmony leaves the audience clapping long after the curtain falls.
Runs until 26 February 2016 | Image: WNO