Le nozze di Figaro (Royal Opera House)
A superb cast brings Mozart's comedy to life in an effervescent performance at Covent Garden
After an exemplary revival at the start of the season in September last year, when David McVicar returned to oversee his 2006 production, the Royal Opera's popular staging of Mozart's comedy has returned with a new cast, conductor and revival director.
Although some of the comedy is now broader under Barbara Lluch's direction, it manages to stay on the right side of farce – indeed it's long time since I've heard an opera audience laugh so much, and as the evening wore on the laughter became infectious as s first-rate cast not only produced some of the finest Mozart-singing to be heard in the house recently, but threw themselves into the action with gusto. The interplay between the characters suggested a long rehearsal period (which can't have been the case), so natural, engaging and spontaneous were their reactions to one another.
Tanya McCallin designs retain their appeal, whilst updating the action to 1830 lends more dramatic frisson to the tensions between masters and servants, which often threaten to boil over, especially given the barely-contained resentment in Alex Esposito's superbly drawn and sung Figaro. Less urbane than some of his predecessors in this staging, his more down at heel approach to the role contrasts perfectly with Gerald Finley's libidinous Count. Finley's performance is now nigh on definitive – his excursions into the Wagner repertory have darkened the voice, yet the range of colour he brings to the role is even greater than when he last sang the Count here.
As the Countess, Rebecca Evans made an auspicious role debut in the House with gloriously sung accounts of ‘Porgi amor' and ‘Dove sono' whilst Camilla Tilling was a delightful Susanna, albeit a touch too small scale for the house, yet she rose to the occasion in the final act and delivered an exquisite account of ‘Deh vieni'. Returning to the role of Cherubino Anna Bonitatibus caught the page's over-sexed libido to perfection in an ardent ‘Non so piu', and sang ‘Voi che sapete' ravishingly.
With superb support from Marie McLauglin (Marcellina), Christophoros Stamboglis (Bartolo) and Guy de Mey (Basilio), this was a vintage Figaro cast and with the Royal Opera's head of music, David Syrus, conducting a wonderfully fleet, nuanced account of the score, and an orchestra on cracking form, this is a ‘Figaro' that will live long in the memory.