Welsh National Opera at Birmingham Hippodrome – Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – David Stout, Anna Devin, Mark Stone, Elizabeth Watts; directed by Tobias Richter; conducted by Lothar Koenigs

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 an English translation by Jeremy Sams, with English surtitles]

Figaro – David Stout
Susanna – Anna Devin
Doctor Bartolo – Richard Wiegold
Marcellina – Susan Bickley
Cherubino – Naomi O’Connell
Count Almavivia – Mark Stone
Don Basilio – Alan Oke
Countess Almaviva – Elizabeth Watts
Antonio – Julian Boyce
Don Curzio – Alan Oke
Barbarina – Rhian Lois
Bridesmaids – Anitra Blazhall & Carolyn Jackson

Chorus & Orchestra of Welsh National Opera
Lothar Koenigs

Tobias Richter – Director
Ralph Koltai – Set Designer
Sue Blane – Costume Designer
Linus Fellborn – Lighting Designer

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: 2 March, 2016
Venue: Birmingham Hippodrome, England

Welsh National Opera's Le nozze di FigaroPhotograph: Richard Hubert SmithHow engaging The Marriage of Figaro can be when performed by a well-balanced cast, all attuned to the production and singing and acting with commitment and evident enjoyment. Once again the designs are by Ralph Koltai, the fluidly moving flats deftly moving the action from Figaro’s room to the Countess’s bedroom and thence to the Count’s library, cleverly suggested by abstract depictions of rows of books. The final scene in the gardens was also beautifully lit; the comings and goings of the characters easy to follow.

Lothar Koenigs’s way with the score was also contributory to the seamless flow. Always singer-friendly he also produced sound reminiscent of a ‘period’-instrument ensemble – lovely shading and warm, almost woody, timbres from the horns. The bassoon, flutes and lower strings were particularly ear-catching. Indeed, there was such fizz as to make one relish Mozart’s genius afresh, with new details to appreciate, and the surtitles were rendered superfluous given the singers got across every word and nuance of Jeremy Sams’s engaging translation.

Welsh National Opera's Le nozze di FigaroSusan Bickley (Marcellina) and Richard Wiegold (Doctor Bartolo)Photograph: Richard Hubert SmithOf the cast, David Stout’s warm and busy Figaro contrasted well with Mark Strong’s dangerous and frustrated Count Almaviva. Both were on fabulous vocal form and impressive during recitatives. Anna Devin was a bright-voiced and very feminine Susanna, singing with great poise and with silvery tone culminating in a ravishing ‘Deh vieni’. As a contrast Elizabeth Watts was a creamy and warm Countess, bringing an ideal combination of humour tinged with sadness. The Cherubino of Naomi O’Connell was hugely engaging.

There was also luxury casting in some of the comprimario roles – notably from Susan Bickley as Marcellina, unusually given the character’s fourth-Act aria and making it blaze with theatrical effect. If Alan Oke’s Don Basilio did not get his same-Act moment of glory he made up for it with his deft portrayal of the gossipy and intriguing music master. Julian Boyce’s Antonio was a fun comic cameo.

Tobias Richter’s direction is sparkling, fresh and above all faithful and does not interfere with the genius of Mozart, Da Ponte and Beaumarchais. It felt as familiar as an old friend, with something new and original added. I’d go again!

  • Further performance in Birmingham on March 5
  • Performances in Llandudno (March 9 & 12), Bristol (March 16 & 19), Southampton (March 23 & 26), Milton Keynes (March 30 & April 2) and Plymouth (April 6 & 9)
  • www.wno.org.uk

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