The Marriage of Figaro at the Royal Opera House
David McVicar‘s 2006 production of Mozart’s classic Le Nozze di Figaro captures the playful essence of the opera so well that it is now seeing its sixth revival, overseen by Thomas Guthrie. A winning cast led by legendary conductor John Eliot Gardiner create moments of aural magic and superb comedy.
Figaro and Susanna, the valet and maid of Count Almaviva and Countess Rosina, decide to get married and are making preparations for their joint life. It transpires that the Count, a known philanderer, has a weakness for Susanna and intends to seduce her. Figaro, his betrothed, and the Countess devise a series of tricks to deter the master of the house from his plan. This sparks off a comedy of errors that is further kindled by the perennially enamoured, clumsy page boy Cherubino, whose infatuation with several ladies in the household makes him an unlikely rival to the Count.
Games of secrecy and deceit see servants and masters become equal, whether as antagonists or accomplices. Class and gender are the leading topics of the four-act opera, and the notions of prejudice and inequality are implicitly challenged at various points.
Christian Gerhaher brings verve and warmth to the role of Figaro, while Joélle Harvey’s Susanna is full of strength and dignity. Simon Keenlyside, who plays the Count, captures the nuances of the character’s duality as he moves back and forth from deceiver to deceived. Then there is countertenor Kangmin Justin Kim who makes history in the role of Cherubino, which is habitually assigned to a female soprano or mezzo-soprano. He nails the look of naïveté and the alternating tones of melancholy and youthful excitement that the role demands.
Tanya McCallin’s set design and Paule Constable’s lighting are the icing on the cake. The action begins in a beautifully illuminated space recreating a sunlit room of the palace that becomes majestic in appearance simply due to the flooding radiant light rather than any opulent decorations. Figaro and Susanna’s room is dark and gloomy but equally atmospheric and somewhat reminiscent of a sombre Vermeer.
Each element of the production is remarkable, but it is the music emerging from the pit that stirs the soul and makes one crave for more.
Photos: Mark Douet
The Marriage of Figaro is at the Royal Opera House from 29th June until 21st July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.