Le Nozze di Figaro at Nevill Holt Opera – ‘a successful launch’
The headline news is that Nevill Holt Opera has created and opened an outstanding new purpose-built theatre, seating 400, possessing a superb acoustic, and offering the company the chance to develop further at its Leicestershire home for decades to come.
In terms of the first production offered within the venue itself reports can be equally positive. Cleverly designed, this is a good-looking Marriage of Figaro, with straightforward period costumes and a handsome and adaptable white unit set by Simon Kenny that provides all the requisite entrances and exits while suggesting a touch of Moorish influence in its Spanish architectural flavour.
In Joe Austin’s staging the cast give a good idea of a piece with more plot per square inch that any other repertoire work.
Rightly maintaining the centre of attention is the stage-savvy Figaro of American Lawson Anderson, whose solid bass-baritone provides the bedrock of a vital and consistently entertaining though never overplayed performance.
Partnering him skilfully is Aoife Miskelly’s cleanly sung Susanna – a little too serious of demeanour, nevertheless, for a live wire comic role.
Of the aristocratic couple, award-winning baritone James Newby’s firmly delivered Count is regularly frustrated by the machinations of his underlings in cahoots with Sky Ingram’s lyrically sentient Countess. Mezzo Anna Harvey offers a pleasingly sung account of the male role of Cherubino, though physically she remains resolutely female in stance and movement.
Also making positive contributions to the busy intrigue are Joan Rodgers’ worldly-wise Marcellina and Stephen Richardson’s pragmatic Bartolo.
But the palm for this successful launch has to go to conductor Nicholas Chalmers and the Royal Northern Sinfonia – the latter newly ensconced in the pit – who between them supply an ideal musical underlay, spirited in momentum and refined in texture: though a few more period-style vocal decorations would be welcome.