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Mozart Le nozze di Figaro

Royal Opera House 22 February 2006

Conductor David Syrus

 

Director: David McVicar

Designs: Tanya McCallin

Lighting: Paule Constable

Choreography: Leah Hausmann

 

Figaro: Erwin Schrott

Susanna: Miah Persson

Bartolo : Jonathan Veira

Marcellina: Graciela Araya

Cherubino: Rinat Shaham

Count Almaviva: Gerald Finley

Don Basilio: Philip Langridge

Countess Almaviva: Dorothea Röschmann

Antonio: Jeremy White

Don Curzio: Francis Egerton

Barbarina: Ana James

 

New productions of repertoire operas such as Le nozze di Figaro are relatively few and far between. The last one ROH commissioned for it's own theatre appeared in 1987, and was given a number of revivals. It looks as though David McVicar's new staging is also in for the long haul.

 

He has shifted da Ponte's plot from 18 th century Seville to provincial France in around1830. The curtain rises before we hear a single note of music. A solitary servant is washing a vast area of floor. As the familiar overture is played more servants join in, carrying fresh linen for the bedrooms and food for the kitchen - smoothly the stage machinery slides across to reveal the room allotted to Figaro and Susanna. It's a pretty cramped store room, and leaves plenty of room on the stage for the servants to eavesdrop and gossip at the door.

 

Tanya McCallin's fine sets positively exhale the air of a French country chateau and the allusion is reinforced by a group of a dozen actors who portray the ever present housekeeper and servants. On the periphery of the action, they sketch out a canvas on which individual principal singers can make their mark, to keep the production looking fresh for many years to come.

 

The present cast is an interesting one. Erwin Schrott, Miah Persson and Rinat Shaham make their ROH role debut's as Figaro, Susanna and Cherubino, all singing well, but their character interpretations still have room to mature.

 

Gerald Finley and Dorothea Roschmann are also seen in new guises. Finley cuts a commanding figure as Count Almaviva, and gives an in-depth portrayal of this complex personality. For Hai già vinta la causa! ... Vedrò mentr'io sospiro he sits moodily toying with a beautifully reproduced period scientific contraption. As his Countess, Roschmann also does well. She gives a very sympathetic portrayal of a woman at a turning point where marital happiness is beginning to escape her, and I have never heard Dove sono sung better.

 

There are also outstanding cameo performances by two old stagers adding new roles to their already extensive repertoires: Philip Langridge as a Quentin Crisp-like Basilio, giving a cruelly ironic performance of his Act 4 aria In quegli anni, his grotesque wig representing the ass's skin, and Francis Egerton as Don Curzio, commanding the stage as soon as he sets foot upon it.

 

The whole evening was enhanced by David Syrus's adroit conducting. The Royal Opera's Head of Music since 1993, he has been deeply involved in the musical preparation of this (and many other) productions, and clearly revels in every note of it. Mark Packwood's harpsichord continuo is also worthy of note.

 

Further performances, with a number of cast changes, are scheduled for June / July.

 

Serena Fenwick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Peter Grahame Woolf