United Kingdom Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro (Sung in English): Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North / Alexander Shelley, (conductor), The Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays. 10.3.2015
Figaro : Richard Burkhard
Susanna: Silvia Moi
Count Almaviva : Quirijn de Lang
Countess Almaviva : Ana Maria Labin
Cherubino : Helen Sherman
Docor Bartolo : Henry Waddington
Don Basilio :Joseph Shovelton
Marcellina : Gaynor Keeble
Antonio : Jeremy Peaker
Barbarina : Ellie Laugharne
Don Curzio : Nicholas Watts
Director : Jo Davies
Set Designer : Leslie Travers
Costume Designer : Gabrielle Dalton
Lighting Designer : James Farncombe
English translation :Jeremy Sams
Opera North have seemed to me to have neglected Mozart’s sublime opera buffa, or giacoso if you think of the serious nature of much of the plot, for well over a decade. This new production updates the period to fin de siècle or even early twentieth century. As to venue, certainly not Austria with Don Curzio a priest in full Orthodox Church garb, Greek or Russian I am not sure! Maybe the venue is Pontevedrio, as per Lehar, or just Never Never lLand. The set itself is infinitely flexible and quickly moved for the different acts, although I did find it irksome looking at the rear construction of a large flat at the opening; nor did I appreciate unscheduled stage voices during the overture.
Sung in English without titles these days is a risk, although most of the audience know the story and the laughter was generous at the appropriate moments of wit. This was despite the fact that even recitative dialogue was not always well projected by the principal ladies, and too often impossible to discern in the arias. That said, the all round singing was of a high standard with Quirijn de Lang in particular singing with firm well articulated tone and crystal clear diction as well as portraying the Count’s arrogance in his jodhpurs and jacket. If Richard Burkhard did not quite match him in acted or sung interpretation his was a well thought out and portrayed assumption, his diction clear and carrying well into the auditorium. Notable in the diction stakes, complete with accent, was the Antonio of Jeremy Peaker whose portrayal made much of few opportunities.
Despite my criticism of the clarity of diction and projection of the words, I thoroughly enjoyed the pert portrayal of Susanna by Silvia Moi and the singing of Ana Maria Labin in Dove sono. Gaynor Keeble was an excellent Marcellina in acted portrayal as well as singing whilst Helen Sherman’s tousled haired Cherubino did justice to her two arias and portrayed the role well without erasing memories of fellow RNCM alumnus Kathryn Rudge in the College production of 2007.
Alexander Shelley conducted Mozart’s divine music with commendable elan whilst supporting his singers admirably.
Robert J Farr.