Review: Marriage of Figaro, English Touring Opera, Snape Maltings, April 13
PUBLISHED: 12:56 16 April 2018
© Jane Hobson 07798 794205 www.janehobson.com
Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro remains popular and filled the Maltings on two successive evenings.
Operatic openings come in all forms but perhaps no opera begins with such bustling anticipation as Figaro. At the (soft) starting gun the players of the ETO orchestra under conductor Christopher Stark launched themselves into the orchestral sprint with energy and elan.
In the first act, particularly, the familiar tunes come thick and fast. Ross Ramgobin and Rachel Redmond made an immediate and favourable impression with their duet and Ramgobin’s warning to the Count had plenty of character. Gaynor Keeble’s Marcellina and Omar Ebrahim’s Bartolo gave a nice touch of intrigue prior to Cherubino’s spirited arrival. Emma Watkinson, covering Cherubino for the indisposed Katherine Aitken, deserves special mention; she sang with clarity and brio and her nimble movements in and out and around chairs belied the fact that she herself was not fully fit. Dawid Kimberg’s Count moved smoothly from charm to anger and John-Colyn Geantey provided some nice touches as Basilio.
The countess’s wistful aria at the opening of Act Two is a taxing entrance for the soprano but Nadine Benjamin invested it with touching honesty and simplicity, aided by dignified and restrained accompaniment.
Cherubino’s ‘Tell me fair ladies’ was meltingly beautiful and soon the tension mounted towards the great finale. Widely recognised as one of Mozart’s greatest single movement operatic achievements (which is saying something) it combines ingenuity with an essential simplicity. Devon Harrison made a telling intervention as Antonio with his broken flowerpots, director Blanche McIntyre marshalled her stage forces with aplomb and the interval arrived on a wave of heady delight.
Even if the Act Two finale is hard to beat, Mozart continues to pour his riches on us. The Act Three sextet was enjoyable and the wedding went off with a flourish. The final act can sometimes stretch credulity and patience and an initially insecure panel caused a frisson of excitement but the tightly focussed action and Stark’s overall control held the audience’s attention to the end. This was an extremely polished, enjoyable and memorable production. Bravo ETO!