In the hours before Valentine’s Day there must have been hundreds of holiday-specific shows that aimed to make their audience fall in love. Kiss me, Figaro! is certainly successful in its quest. Produced by the Merry Opera Company, it tells the story of a touring opera troupe whose choice of last-minute replacement tenor (Joe Morgan) does not sit well with the lead soprano (Daisy Brown). Backstage, sparks fly and tempers flare in an exciting introduction to opera that falls into a similar space to Noises Off. This time, however, the romance is key and, as with many love stories, the duo have a history that they seem to only be able to verbalise through song.

Supported by a small but wonderful ensemble, their backstage romancing is soundtracked by a handful of beautiful voices that come together to provide the audience with a pathway into understanding and enjoying opera as a medium. Each of the pieces, be it Puccini, Mozart, Irving Berlin or Donizetti (to name but a few), is arranged accessibly, some with neat introductions and some falling right into place within the story.

It is not all drama and romance, however. There are hilarious interludes from various members of the company, led by Matthew Quirk as Marcus Sherwood – artistic director of the opera-within-the-opera – and his estranged wife Jacqueline (Kristin Finnigan), who quite literally suffers anything for her art. If anything, I would have liked to have seen a little more of their story as a contrast to the central romance, but their presence is felt no matter what their roles, such is their self-assurance and resounding ability. The same goes for the rest of the ensemble, small though it is, with every voice and performance both emotionally and aurally fulfilling. Their characters, ranging from supportive to sharp, from honest to romantic, are played for the laughs as well as the tears.

The stand-outs, however, are most certainly Morgan and Brown, their chemistry on stage perfectly summed up by an early scene in which Brown toys with her beau’s feelings to hilarious but electric effect. Their vocals match well and, as characters backstage, one can almost feel the tension between them. This is heightened by the simple lighting, the dramatic scene changes and the wonderful music provided by Stephen Hose, on stage throughout and full of an unerring enthusiasm and concentration for a note perfect performance.

The Merry Opera Company here provides a sweet, funny and romantic introduction into the world of opera, with a hard-working, innovative cast who, while performing such fascinating and complex pieces, provide an entry level into a complex art form. As, admittedly, a newcomer to the genre, their crash course in operatic romance – entwined with a backstage drama-comedy – is not only satisfying, but has definitely ignited an interest in the opera and its romantic leanings. Go and see it – it could light a fire under the coldest of hearts.

Kiss me, Figaro! is playing at the Riverside Studios until 2 March, then going on tour. For more information and tickets, see the Riverside Studios website.