Marriage of Figaro at the English National Opera
Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro was premiered in Vienna in 1786. It’s a 4 Act opera buffa, with the libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It was written several years after the plot of the Barber of Seville and recounts a single day of madness in the palace of Count Almaviva near Seville Spain.
The revival by ENO of Fiona Shaw’s production has much to recommend it. Her version is built around a revolving maze of small concealed rooms, bringing immediacy to the multiple change of scenes, perhaps at the expense of calmness and tranquillity.
There is no space to be bored in this production and indeed rightly so, with a rich cast of mainly British singers, who, as a team, provide great chemistry throughout the evening. Credit for this must also go to the amusing English translation by Jeremy Sams, which undoubtedly helps the irresistible verve of the Figaro of the Dutchman, Thomas Oliemans, as well as the ‘rich’ bass baritone of Ashley Riches as Count Almaviva.
Lucy Crowe’s distinctive voice has changed somewhat from the Gilda she recently performed at ROH and for this role, as the Countess, she produces a deeper creamy sound, but always with an accuracy that can only be admired.
Two young ENO Harewood Artists nearly stole the show, being the Suzana of the soprano, Rhian Lois, who although not possessing a large voice, has a very large personality and sweet sound and the Cherubino of Katie Coventry, who has a beautifully high grained soprano sound, with bags of personality to match. Janis Kelly is the Marcellina, in proper housekeeper style, with Dr Bartolo being the bass Keel Watson and Don Basilio being the tenor of Colin Judson, both who sang admirably.
The evening was controlled by ENO’s Music Director, Martyn Brabbins, who gave us a pacey and accurate account of the score, supporting the great sounds from the ENO Orchestra and Chorus.
Having recently read a reviewer demanding the closure of ENO – a bit like turkey’s voting for Christmas – this production only celebrates the great work that is done by all involved with ENO and surely must cement its future.
If you like Marriage of Figaro you won’t be disappointed.