This English Touring Opera co-production with the RCM has been revived by Bernadette Iglich from James Conway’s original staging.
We may be in the summer residence of Aguas Frescas during the late 18th century but Agnes Treplin’s designs suggest that autumn is fast approaching. The jalousie shutters have seen better days, the grey walls are faded and the costumes are predominantly in russets and browns which suggest fallen leaves and the onset of decay. This is a place which has already outlived its time.
Michael Irwin’s translation is a singable one with some neat couplets in the recitative passages. The large cast provides some good acting as well as a judicious use of vocal decoration and the set-piece arias as well as the ensembles make their proper impact. Eliana Pretorian’s Susanna in particular creates magic for “Deh vieni” and, with Laura Mitchell’s Countess a lyrical soaring for “Che soave zeffiretto”. Mitchell is also excellent in her two sad arias and dignified to the point of tragedy in the last act.
You don’t feel that either Figaro or Cherubino should be quite so eager to try to bamboozle Nicholas Lester’s Count; this is a man with a vicious streak, given full rein in “Hai gia vinta”. Robert Davies matches this intensity in the title role though the under-powered “Non piu andrai” is due to the producer instituting a scene change through the last verse and coda.
There’s also some unnecessary business with a chamber-pot in Act Two though the Act Four final tableau with the Count and Niamh Kelly’s Cherubino facing each other as the other “happy” couples dance off stage reminds us that this story has a sequel; it’s the middle one in Beaumarchais’ trilogy, not its finale.
Making her role debut, Miriam Sharrad has Marcellina firmly in control, from mantilla comb to fan. Wheel-chair bound, except when no-one’s looking, Andrew Slater’s Bartolo is a good foil to Mark Wilde’s slithery Basilio. Kelly is a boyish page and contrasts “Non so piu” with “Voi che sapete” effectively; Catrine Kirkman’s Barbarina is a good foil.
There were moments when Michael Rosewell seemed a little too inclined to let the singers find their own rhythms though the harpsichord did provide a couple of unexpected jokes, such as the “See the conquering hero come” flourish when the possibility of the Count’s London posting is first mooted.