Review: WNO - The Marriage Of Figaro @ WMC
The Figaro season continued with more attempts at hilarity, and things could only get better after Barber of Seville, which did have some comic highlights but could have done with a bit more punch.
The Marriage of Figaro is considered a high point in music and in Mozart's short career. For me, it is far too long, but some of the features are real delights. It is also great to see what the gang from the first story are up to now that things appeared to calm down, if only for a little while.
In this Figaro, Tobias Richter made the fatal mistake of using an idea at the start of a performance and not carrying on with it throughout the rest of the night. As the recognisable overture wafted from the pit, we saw the lead singers on stage as if preparing for a show, as if for this show itself. It gave the impression they were actors, and was never utilised again. This vague and uninspired idea was soon forgotten, even though the set kept reminding us of a "show", not quite ready for the curtain just yet.
If you want to do a Mozart opera well, then you must have a very good cast. This was met here and David Stout is the perfect Figaro, bringing a scheming wit and charm to role that I doubt could be rivalled. He totally feels the part and you really feel the costumes he wears throughout are his. Mark Stone is a ruthless Count Almaviva, hellbent on bedding Susana (who is to marry Figaro), as his right as aristocracy. Susana is played playfully and with vigour by Anna Devin, though Elizabeth Watts is a shine-through role as the Countess, putting up with all the guff from the Count. She is a charming presence on the stage and really owns the role, though I think we would have preferred her gorgeous arias sung in the original Italian.
The immortal Susan Bickley is Marcellina, the mischievous maid who gets what she wants. The addition of her aria about men was an extra treat to a long evening. Cherubino is a super trouser role for Naomi O'Connell, who is the young lad madly in love with the Countess, whose fate is met in the battlefield, thanks to Figaro and others. It's a slight role, though it does have some grace and youthful vitality to it.
In joyous Enlightenment attire (perhaps the best costume of the night) was Richard Wiegold as Doctor Bartolo. His brief presence was fabulous and made all the funnier in the scene in which he discovers that he is the father of Figaro and that he did so with Marcellina. The then realisation that they have to spend time together and have to be nice to each other, had the audience belly laughing.
The performances made up for a shaky production.
Rating: 3 stars
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Photo credits: Richard Hubert Smith via WNO Press Images stock