Updating Mozart and da Ponte comic
masterpiece Le nozze di Figaro can prove to be a
pot-holed track activity. Michael Grandage's production for this
year's Glyndebourne Festival has now embarked on its autumn and
winter tour and disproves all the forebodings. We're still definitely
in Spain, but equally firmly in the once-Moorish south where customs
cling on for all the centuries between the Re-Conquest and a
Dali-inspired hippy generation of the 1960s.
Count Almaviva may be “groovy” on
the surface, but that's mere window-dressing; underneath lurks the
predatory feudal lord. Countess Rosina languishes in misery swathed
in flowing kaftans. Most of the estate's workers are trapped in their
own time-warp. Only Barbarina has acquired some big-town manners –
and the outfit to go with them. Basilio, Bartolo and Curzio are
experienced survivors whoever may be currently in charge.
There's some good acting as well as
singing with Joélie Harvey sounding elegant as Susanna as well as
looking the picture of a ladies' maid. As the Countess, Layla
Claire produces a moving account of “Porgi amor”, beautifully
phrased with a seamless legato, though “Dove sono” was less
successful. Jean Rigby's Marcellina has the right sort of bitchy
authority while Ellie Laugharne's Barbarina is prettily pert.
The men make an equally strong team.
Guido Loconsolo is a deep-voiced Figaro, in many ways suggesting a
clone of his master. John Moore's Almaviva is a fine study in
authoritarianism laced with an excess of libido; one has the feeling
that he recognises his younger self in Kathryn Rudge's coltish
Cherubino. Andrew Slater thoroughly deserves his applause for “la
vendetta” and risks his way along as Bartolo with detailed but not
excessive comic touches.
You should lock up the silver and hide
away all sensitive documents when Daniel Norman's creepy
gossip-columnist of a Basilio is on the premises. Christopher Oam's
sets look good, though I do fear for Rosina's safety as she
negotiates steep steps in her platform shoes. They make a good
adjunct to Cherubino's dressing-up as a girl in the second act,
The staging of the fourth act is
particularly good; Grandage gives us a hint of trouble still to come
when the clapping and dancing of the rest of the company is so
visually at odds with the Countess' resistance to her husband's
renewed take-over bid. Watch out for it; Beaumarchais' third play
is hovering over the orchestra pit. The orchestral playing under
Jonathan Cohen is workmanlike but not really inspired.