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The Marriage of Figaro review at London Coliseum – ‘crowd-pleasing’

The Marriage of Figaro at London Coliseum. Photo: Tristram Kenton Thomas Oliemans in The Marriage of Figaro at London Coliseum. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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The not always sophisticated humour of Fiona Show’s thrice-seen production of The Marriage of Figaro is made to feel positively classy in this latest revival by Peter Relton.

The action is set in a drab geometric maze with Count Almaviva the macho machinator at its heart. While human emotion risks being eclipsed by the overused revolve and extraneous stage business, entertainment is all, even if it means that Mozart’s miraculous overture must play second fiddle to an extracurricular gag about a busy bee.

The opera’s storyline, costumes and props are mostly in period but there’s a Hoover to rub in the timelessness of the exploitation plus shadowy video projections signifying threatening masculinity.

The mostly young cast is capable. One of several principals taking up their roles for the first time, Lucy Crowe has graduated to the Countess and is vocally strong and dramatically affecting though not without some curiously tempered vowels.

With a Don Giovanni for Opera Holland Park under his belt, the young British bass-baritone Ashley Riches shows great potential as a lofty and entitled Count. Rhian Lois’ resourceful Susanna grows in confidence and character from a generic soubrettish start. Katie Coventry makes another promising role debut as Cherubino. The weakest spots are the stolid, lumpish Figaro of Thomas Oliemans and an initially lazy contribution from the pit.

Martyn Brabbins, conducting his first ENO revival as Music Director, takes time to recover from co-ordination problems that should be resolved later in the run. Jeremy Sams’ spicy, accessible English translation works as well as it always has.

 

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Verdict
A reasonably safe, crowd-pleasing production enhanced by engaging performances 
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