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The Marriage of Figaro

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Mozart’s popular comedy takes to the Opera North stage in a new production by Jo Davies, who has already given the company major hits with Ruddigore and Carousel. She is similarly successful this time around.

The opera is sung in Jeremy Sams’ witty English translation, without surtitles: one doesn’t really need them, so clear is the diction of a cast several of whose members are not native English-speakers.

Quirijn de Lang, for instance, who hails from Holland, sings a suave and expert Count, reacting with credible annoyance to the constant frustration of his plans by his wife and servants. Romanian soprano Ana Maria Labin offers a gently lyrical Countess, while the Norwegian Silvia Moi is the stylish Susanna. All three – as well as their colleagues – make the best possible case for performing comedies in the language of the audience: one hears a good deal of laughter.

The visual setting is apparently Russia in the years leading up to the Revolution: the Almavivas’ palace appears at first and occasionally afterwards to be no more than an artificial stage set; but in more realistic terms its dilapidation suggests that money is tight.

But it’s the detail of the production that stands out. Figaro notoriously has a complex plot – full of small moments in the action that signify major changes in the comedy’s overall direction. Davies notices all of them. Her staging is a joyous achievement.

The show is excellent on a musical level, too, with standout vocal and dramatic performances also from Helen Sherman’s boyish Cherubino, Henry Waddington’s bumptious Bartolo, Gaynor Keeble’s genuinely sympathetic Marcellina and Joseph Shovelton’s gossipy Basilio. At the centre stands Richard Burkhard’s genial Figaro, a live-wire interpretation around whom the action revolves.

Musically, things are in the capable hands of conductor Alexander Shelley, who keeps the score perfectly on the move.

  • Grand Theatre, Leeds
  • January 30-February 27, then touring until March 28. PN January 24
  • Composer/librettist: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart/Lorenzo da Ponte
  • Conductor: Alexander Shelley
  • Director: Jo Davies
  • Design: Leslie Travers set, Gabrielle Dalton costume, James Farncombe lighting
  • Technical: Christine Jane Chibnall casting, Ray Hain production, Jane Bonner company manager, Kate Freston-Davy stage manager, Stephen Rodwell wardrobe, Colin Smith head of lighting, Kim Freeland wigs, make-up, Ric Green technical manager
  • Cast includes: Richard Burkhard, Silvia Moi, Henry Waddington, Gaynor Keeble, Helen Sherman, Quirijn de Lang, Joseph Shovelton, Ana Maria Labin, Jeremy Peaker, Nicholas Watts, Ellie Laugharne
  • Producer: Opera North
  • Running time: 3hrs 15mins

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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.