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Le nozze di Figaro – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Libretto: Lorenzo da Ponte

Director: Michael Grandage

Reviewer: Joan Phillips


Michael Grandage’s 2012 production of Le nozze di Figaro brings this 1786 classic opera crashing into the 1970’s with great humour. Complete with droopy moustache’s, long hair, kaftans, printed flares and velvet jackets, fans of the 70’s TV show Jason King or those who have fond memories of the fashions of Abigail’s Party will not be disappointed.

Mozart wrote the music for this opera in partnership with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. Together they produced a comic farce which barely concealed a direct attack on the aristocracy, hypocrisy and the class system of the day. However, from the moment the Count Almaviva enters the story early in Act I, it clear that, in this production, politics is playing second fiddle to the comedy. Played by John Moore, at his lascivious best in a matching, three-piece flared suit, long moustache and wandering hands, this version gives more emphasis to the comic. We easily overlook the moral outrage of the Count claiming his “droit du seigneur” over Figaro’s fiancée, Susanna, and get carried away with the farce and the atmosphere on stage as the main characters romp, dance and grope their way through each other’s husband, wife, fiancée, master, servant or bedroom.

Joelle Harvey is a delightful and playful Susanna, the unfortunate recipient of the Count’s attentions. Figaro, her devoted fiancée is engagingly played by Guido Loconsolo. Layla Claire, playing the Countess Almaviva, is particularly moving in her solo laments and we can’t help share the pain and unhappiness inflicted by her husband’s unfaithfulness.

Christopher Oram’s sets, firmly anchored inSeville,Spain, get increasingly luscious as the story progresses. The opera starts in the beautifully tiled Moorish-style room to be shared by Susanna and Figaro. It then moves into the Countess’s luxuriously decorated bedroom for the farcical Act II. The final scene in Act IV is set in eye-popping Alhambra-style palace terraces. The sets are rich and mouth-watering although seem to have ignored the 70’s atmosphere set by the rest of the production.

It is not just in the hair and costumes that this version sets itself in the 70’s. The language in the translations also humorously fix this production in the recent decades – referring to ‘skirt lifters’ and ‘horny ****’ which is very funny. Irritatingly though, physically, these surtitles are too high above the set for you to take in the text while simultaneously watching the action.

It is in the final climax scenes that this Glyndebourne production has the most fun with the 70’s at its cheesy best. This must be the first time a Mozart opera has the cast doing a Conga or even a Macarena. How appropriate to be seeing this production in the month of Movember. Who knows how long the moustaches may get by the end of this month. It all made it even more sleazy and authentic. Somehow I think Mozart would approve.

Runs until 17th November 2012.

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