Marriage of Figaro: dazzles

Marriage of Figaro: dazzles

Mozart's popular Marriage of Figaro: dazzles

English Touring Opera brings new freshness to a classic

Only three years before the French Revolution rocked Europe Mozart's action-packed struggle between master and servant, The Marriage of Figaro, was a ground breaker. Last night’s performance from the exuberant talent of the English Touring Opera proved the magical mix works wonderfully more than 300 years after its premier in pre-revolutionary Vienna in 1796. 

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The composer's muddling masterpiece is usually presented in the orginal Italian, but this vibrant English version brings out the poignancy in the sadness – and certainly the gaiety of the laughs. It’s an Opera Buffa by genre -- a knockabout comedic trope of entertainment always popular down the ages. But add the genius of Mozart’s music and you have an audience enthralled; laughter one moment – sadness the next. The effect is wonderful. 

Love sex and betrayal are the most interesting themes of life and Mozart has all three in spades, making this probably everyone’s favourite opera, along with Puccini’s La Boheme. The opening night at The Cambridge Arts Theatre kept up the pace, offering a Figaro for our time.

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The opera opens with Figaro planning his wedding to Susanna, maid to the Countess. Delighted with the new apartment his employer the Count Almaviva has given him as a present. It’s the best room in the house – next door to their master. But the night before the nuptials his bride-to-be, Susanna has seen through the convenience of the new room. She painfully explains the snag. The Count is pursuing her ardently and plans a seduction even before the wedding.

The opera opens with Figaro planning his wedding to Susanna, maid to the Countess. Delighted with the new apartment his employer the Count Almaviva has given him as a present. It’s the best room in the house – next door to their master. But the night before the nuptials his bride-to-be, Susanna has seen through the convenience of the new room. She painfully explains the snag. The Count is pursuing her ardently and plans a seduction even before the wedding.

The opera opens with Figaro planning his wedding to Susanna, maid to the Countess. Delighted with the new apartment his employer the Count Almaviva has given him as a present. It’s the best room in the house – next door to their master. But the night before the nuptials his bride-to-be, Susanna has seen through the convenience of the new room. She painfully explains the snag. The Count is pursuing her ardently and plans a seduction even before the wedding.

The opera opens with Figaro planning his wedding to Susanna, maid to the Countess. Delighted with the new apartment his employer the Count Almaviva has given him as a present. It’s the best room in the house – next door to their master. But the night before the nuptials his bride-to-be, Susanna has seen through the convenience of the new room. She painfully explains the snag. The Count is pursuing her ardently and plans a seduction even before the wedding.

The opera opens with Figaro planning his wedding to Susanna, maid to the Countess. Delighted with the new apartment his employer the Count Almaviva has given him as a present. It’s the best room in the house – next door to their master. But the night before the nuptials his bride-to-be, Susanna has seen through the convenience of the new room. She painfully explains the snag. The Count is pursuing her ardently and plans a seduction even before the wedding.

Figaro is shocked. But he soon gathers his wits and in a lovely lively aria, alone on stage, he plans to outwit his powerful master – and be one step ahead of his shocking plan. Thus begins the game between Figaro the servant and Almaviva the boss – a dance as Figaro sings it, but one where servants must tread carefully if they’re to win. Susanna and Figaro are in it together -- helped by Almaviva’s sorrowing wife, pained at her husband’s philandering.

And whilst the mood is buoyant and often laugh out loud funny – the appearance of the outraged gardener (Devon Harrison) indignant at someone jumping on his flowers from a window might be straight out of a Cambridge College potting shed – there is also a serious side to it all.

The most moving and beautiful of the many arias in the drama go to the women. Susanna herself has most to sing about. Rachel Redmond sings gloriously, is full of impish fun and propels the action into a new gear with her every appearance.

Nadine Benjamin as the Countess was sublime. The singer comes unusually from East London where an enlightened teacher pointed her and her gorgeous voice towards Covent Garden. Years later and with a daunting background training she stars in this most tender of Mozart’s heroines. Alone and spurned she reflects on the time when her husband loved her. Her words carry her heartbreak from that far off fantasy world to our own. 

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Some music never fades or fails to move the heart even as the generations go by. Everyone loves Figaro of course. But Ross Ramgobin (remember the name) adds a hip-hop flourish to spring his Figaro right into the 21st Century whilst losing none of the character’s musical control. And Count Almaviva is good. He has a tough role, and cannot avoid Hervey Weinstein overtones as he uses his powerful position to compromise servants and press his sexual desires on his staff.

But Dawid Kimberg has him as a victim of his times, a bumbling upper class twit who keeps trying – and failing – to have his own way. Beautiful bass singing – and his seemingly genuine contrition when he realizes how he has hurt and dishonoured his lovely wife do redeem this man from perennial sex pest to repentant huband. Or so we hope. The best you can say for his predatory behavior is he has good manners and does want consent to his sexy schemes. Not that his victims have much choice but the combined cleverness of Susanna and Figaro see him off and he ends the play a sadder and wiser man.

Love from a stranger

Love from a stranger

European Chamber Orchestra

European Chamber Orchestra