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, however.
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.