Opera is an exceptional art form – to speak five languages fluently, master your lung capacity as well as a professional freediver and be able to produce a sound that can break glass, but also captivate an audience, is a skill set that opera singers must be applauded for. There is something over-worldly about the grandness of it: the incredible emotion and power of the music and sound, which takes you into a world where hearts are broken in two and schemes plotted all with the power of voice.
Le Nozze Di Figaro is no exception and is probably one of Mozart’s greatest works, with a score that most recognise and love. Returning to the majestic space of the Royal Opera House, David McVicar’s acclaimed 2006 production is set in 1830’s revolutionary Europe when many conflicts between classes remained unresolved. Figaro is about to marry Susanna, but his master Count Almaviva wants to bed her as well and plots to ruin the wedding. Figaro has to outwit his master to save his future marriage, but things get out of hand as the Count suspects the Countess of having have a liaison of her own – a marital battle begins.
Le Nozze Di Figaro is mad, and really depicts how we succumb to passion. Mozart’s music gives us something that words can’t describe – it allows the characters to express emotion that is too big for words, creates a space for thoughts to flow free and vocalises how love really make us irrational. The score is playful, beautiful and at times so delicate it pierces your heart. Stripping the production of its grand design and ensemble there is deep, simple emotion connecting us to the pain of the characters that is rare when being shared with such a big audience. The cast is phenomenal, giving the production a lightness and flow: Alex Esposito is not only incredibly charming as Figaro, but also sings the part with a modern touch that really opens up the text and music for a younger audience. Gerald Finley’s Count Almaviva is temperamental and devious, and Anna Bonitatibus’s young Cherubino is sung with such soul and playful innocence that it’s hard not to be overwhelmed with emotion as she sings ‘Voi, Che Sapete’. She plays a young man with such energy and passion, making the audience fall in love with Cherubino more than anyone else in the production.
The design is realistic and majestic: designer Tanya McCallin wows with incredible detail and Paule Constable’s lighting design beautifully supports this, making the world of Figaro very believable with almost historic insight. Director David McVicar has created a production that really opens up the text to a modern audience, but still keeps the beauty of a time long passed, and sets the magnificence of the score in a world that supports it and allows intrigue and scandal to unfold. The direction is dynamic and really explores the world and weight of the piece, and there is a great focus on detail within performances. However, as the opera is sung in Italian some meaning is lost as surtitles come and go – half a song will be without. With a plot as complicated and confusing as Le Nozzo Di Figaro it would be useful to have more. As with many operas, some of the emotion is expressed to the extreme, which sometimes borders on farce, but the visually impressive side of the production and the incredibly talented voices make up for it.
Le Nozze Di Figaro is fun, grand and beautifully performed with songs you will recognise and secretly mumble to yourself in the theatre. The Royal Opera House has again created a very moving performance that is certain to wow those who are frequent opera-goers, as well as those who are newbies and thought they’d never sit through three hours of Mozart.
Le Nozze Di Figaro is playing at The Royal Opera House until 10 May. For more information or tickets, see the Royal Opera House website.
Photo by Mark Douet.