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Le Nozze di Figaro review at Garsington Opera – ‘enchanting and engaging’

Jennifer France and Joshua Bloom in Le Nozze di Figaro at Garsington Opera. Photo: Mark Douet Jennifer France and Joshua Bloom in Le Nozze di Figaro at Garsington Opera. Photo: Mark Douet
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Garsington Opera’s Le Nozze di Figaro is a glorious indulgence for the eye and ear. From the first scene to the last, this new production radiates self-confidence and joy.

This Figaro is set firmly but not pedantically in the late 18th century in which it was written. With veteran director John Cox at the helm, the pacing never falters and characterisations are never less than convincing. Duncan Rock is a swaggering Count Almaviva with Kirsten MacKinnon as his countess, who must suffer his betrayals and buffoonery. There’s believable affection between the servants Figaro (Joshua Bloom) and Susanna (Jennifer France), whose machinations to persuade the Count to give up his designs on Susanna drive the plot.

The opera’s rich comedic side is carefully cultivated, with Timothy Robinson as the sycophantic fixer Basilio, Marta Fontanals-Simmons as the girl-mad teenager Cherubino and Stephen Richardson as the self-important Barolo. Special commendation goes to the excellent Janis Kelly as the social-climbing Marcellina, whose forceful personality is well matched by her costumes. The sumptuous costumes are by Robert Perdziola, also responsible for the moveable, multi-layered set; the collection of paintings on the wall in Act III could serve as a pub quiz for art historians.

Musical delights abound, including the burnished bass of Joshua Bloom and the honeyed soprano of Kirsten MacKinnon. Douglas Boyd shows off the prowess of the fine Garsington Opera Orchestra by exploring lowest levels of pianissimo and daring the singers to match, a challenge particularly met by Jennifer France. Praise is due the ever-responsive continuo from Andrew Smith (fortepiano) and Helena Binney (cello).

The audience cannot help but be enchanted by this magical Figaro, and even the occasional noisy helicopter flying above, cannot break its spell.

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Verdict
Garsington’s enchanting and engaging Figaro is a garden of delights
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