There is something refreshingly playful about the music of Mozart that makes it accessible even for newbies whose ears block at the thought of sitting through three hours of opera. The impressiveness of the quality of the voice and the world in which opera exists seems to flourish even more with his melodic flirtation with music and emotion; though this form of expression can seem alien to us mere audience members, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro manages to tap into the very essence of passion and the irrationality that follows. It expresses something beyond words and charms all with its recognisable melodies and insight into the silliness of human nature.
David McVicar’s highly acclaimed production returns to the Royal Opera House and transforms the stage into 1830s revolutionary Europe, where conflicts between the classes flourish. Figaro is to marry the maid Susanna, but his master Count Almaviva wants to bed her as well and plots to ruin the wedding. To save his love and future marriage, Figaro has to outwit his master and sets out to trick him. When the Count suspects the Countess of having a liaison of her own, things spiral out of control and a marital battle begins. As well as being one of Mozart’s most famous and beloved operas, Le nozze di Figaro is also one of the most entertaining. The constant battle of outwitting one’s opponent creates a frivolous madness as the music playfully drives the hysteria beyond sense. We all know the irrationalities of love and Mozart’s characters certainly don’t shy away from it. The cast is incredible and gives the production its emotion and flow, with impeccable comic timing from Erwin Schrott’s Figaro. Stéphane Degout’s jealous and obsessive Count Almaviva is the perfect opponent, and with Anita Hartig’s spirited Susanna and Ellie Dehn’s heartfelt Countess, we feel a strong sense of ensemble and connection throughout. Kate Lindsey’s Cherubino is delightfully boyish and frisky, and it is hard not to be overcome by emotion as she sings Voi, Che Sapete. She manages to touch the soul of the music with such delicacy that one can only fall in love with Cherubino.
David McVicar’s production sets the beauty of the score in a world that supports it and allows intrigue and scandal to unfold. The text is accessible to a modern audience despite being sung in Italian (and the modern translation is at times plain hilarious) and the fluid direction and weight of the piece’s emotional life makes it a dynamic and highly entertaining performance. Designer Tanya McCallin creates an incredibly realistic and majestic setting for the world of Figaro – an almost historic insight. The production doesn’t take many risks but is delightful in its warmth and simplicity. If you haven’t been exposed to opera before, this is a great place to start.
Le nozze di Figaro is playing at the Royal Opera House until 14 October. For tickets and more information see the Royal Opera House website. Photo: Mark Douet.