Scottish Opera’s revival of their 2010 production of The Marriage of Figaro at The Festival Theatre is just a perfectly produced and staged performance of Mozart’s classic four act comic opera.
From the very first few minutes here, it is obvious that this is a production that a lot of time and care has gone into as the stage settings, lighting, costumes and choreography are impressive and draw you as an audience immediately into Figaro’s world. Set changes throughout the show are slick, all equally as impressive as the opening one and much of the credit for this must go to designer Simon Higlett and his team. Special mentions here to Robert B Dickson (revival lighting) and Steinvor Palsson (revival choreography ) are also needed.
It may seem strange listing all of the above before getting to the performers, but the care and attention taken on the visuals of this set really gives our performers a believable world in which to play their roles.
This is an opera, but it is also a light comic farce and performers with that very light comedic touch and timing are required to pull this one off convincingly. Fortunately, in all of our cast we have that and throughout this performance everyone and everything works to perfect timing.
Ben McAteer is a great Figaro (valet to the Count Almaviva) and Anna Devin is superb as his soon to be wife Susanna trying to ward of the attentions of her master the philandering Count Almaviva (played wonderfully by Samuel Dale Johnson). Providing a great counterpoint to the happy Susanna is the lonely and long suffering wife of the Count - Countess Almaviva, and that role is perfectly played here by Eleanor Dennis. Providing much of the comedy here and weaving the thread through so much of the story is the Count’s over-amorous page boy Cherubino, and Hanna Hipp gets the comedy timing just right on this character. Also solid performances from Graeme Broadbent and Marie McLaughlin as Dr Bartolo and his former housekeeper Marcellina. Donald Maxwell also gives some great fun with his character, Antonio the gardener. Providing love interest (if not too reciprocated by him) for Cherubino is Barbarina the gardener’s daughter played by Lucy Hall.
The comedy here is timed perfectly, but this of course is still an opera, and vocals are all wonderfully performed by everyone to the masterful music of Mozart that flows naturally enough to make everything seem so natural. There are so many musical favourites here including of course the overture, but the one of my favourites here is the opening scene of Act II with Eleanor Dennis as Countess Almaviva performing her aria: Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro – "Grant, love, some comfort". The perfectly timed duet between the Countess and Susanna is also in my favourites list. Of course, Ben McAteer’s performance of Figaro’s aria "Non più andrai" (You Won’t Go Anymore) has to be mentioned here.
This production by Scottish Opera directed by Sir Thomas Allen with orchestra conducted by Timothy Burke is just a wonderful comic opera to watch and listen to and reminds us all why this work was so popular first time round and why it stays so popular with audiences now.
Review by Tom King