Le nozze di Figaro – Opera buffa in four Acts to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte after the comedy La folle journée, ou Le mariage de Figaro, by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais [sung in Italian with English surtitles]
Figaro – Alexander Miminoshvili
Susanna – Soraya Mafi
Bartolo – Henry Waddington
Cherubino – Ida Ränzlöv
Don Basiliio – Colin Judson
Count Almaviva – George Humphreys
Countess Almaviva – Nardus Williams
Antonio – Nicholas Folwell
Don Curzio – Stephen Mills
Barbarina – Charlotte Bowden
Bridesmaids – Ffion Edwards & Jessica Ouston
Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra
Michael Grandage – Director
Ian Rutherford – Revival Director
Christopher Oram – Designer
Ben Wright – Movement Director
Kieran Sheehan – Revival movement Director
Paule Constable – Lighting Designer
Reviewed by: Curtis Rogers
Reviewed: 4 November, 2022
Venue: Milton Keynes Theatre, Buckinghamshire, England
Michael Grandage’s production of Mozart’s perennial opera locates it in Seville where Beaumarchais’s original dramatic scenario is meant to be set. The typical Moorish-inspired interiors of the Alcazar and other such Sevillean palaces are accurately recreated, with their azulejo tiles, Almohad arcades, and geometric patterns in their furnishings, to create the semi-public world of those aristocratic households, as servants and retainers bustle between the sequence of rooms set around an open, internal courtyard. In such a sultry, self-contained environment, passion and lust bubble away, as wittily suggested by the frisky choreography which evokes that but without excessive Carry On-style lewdness.
The correct Spanish milieu is not simply about authentically conjuring the supposed setting, however, as the action is brought forwards to the 1960s, an era of fast-changing social attitudes and strata. And although it isn’t explicitly referred to in the production, that period and place inevitably implies General Franco’s authoritarian regime as the political background in the Spanish world at large, beyond the Almaviva palace, which makes the struggle against hierarchy and power here all the more potent, compared with that in the democracies of Western Europe at the time.
Nevertheless the cast does a fine job in executing the intricate comings and goings of this opera with great but unexaggerated charisma, making the scenarios of each scene unproblematic for the audience to follow. But they also keep the action appropriately focussed on the relationships among the characters on stage (whether they be constructive, antagonistic, or conspiratorial) with a suitably modern and credible demeanour, rather than any period affectation. Alexander Miminoshvili is a nervously tetchy Figaro at times, making him a more convincingly human and flawed figure, seeing that here – unlike in The Barber of Seville – it is not he who is entirely in control of events but, if anybody, the women. As such, Soraya Mafi is a dainty Susanna, musically elegant and assured, without hectoring or dominating, and Nardus Williams floats an impressively soaring line with ample (but not excessive) vibrato to create an audibly dignified and graceful Countess.
George Humphreys commands attention as the Count, due to his tall figure, but also his suave, unhurried singing of the part, suggesting that he still retains (or is trying to) some moral authority, with a certain slyness also expressively hinting at his own plans to prevent Figaro from standing in the way of his own schemes in relation to Susanna. The opera’s buffa elements are left to Henry Waddington’s quite jocular account of Bartolo (even in his vendetta aria) who plays off Madeleine Shaw’s redoubtable Marcellina quite amusingly. Colin Judson also plays a deliciously snide Don Basilio. Ida Ränzlöv not only looks the part as the gangly adolescent Cherubino, but also exudes an attractively wiry fluency to his expressions of youthful lust on the verge of his voice breaking.
Stephanie Childress and the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra give an alert and lively reading of the score. Strings are transparent and lithe, and the woodwinds – so important in Mozart – also sound clear in their dialogue with the rest of the orchestra or the singers, for instance oboes that are sometimes plangent, or the bassoons which poignantly colour the Countess’s first aria. Natural trumpets, and timpani with sticks give bite to the performance too, and discreet ornamentations on the fortepiano by Matthew Fletcher in some recitatives and numbers add further whimsical delight. The production is now ten years old, but it continues to impress on account of the sets’ visual lavishness and the cast’s choreographic vivacity.
Further performances at various venues to November 24