David McVicar’s 2006 production comes up vividly in this imaginative revival overseen by Thomas Guthrie. This is a Marriage of Figaro moved forward from before the French Revolution to another period of revolution – 1830 – and the class and gender as well as personal tensions crucial to the original are just as evident in a staging where the old routines are as sharp as ever. There are some new ones, too – all pertinent, and never just stuck in for the sake of it.
There are strong performances throughout from a starry cast. A rare visitor to the opera house, lieder-specialist Christian Gerhaher is a strikingly energetic if nevertheless surprisingly shouty Figaro. Simon Keenlyside returns as a Count of unusual detail and comprehensiveness, memorable in his every thought-through gesture. He’s ably partnered by Julia Kleiter’s cleanly sung Countess.
Joelle Harvey’s Susanna offers lyricism and plenty of personality, as does the Korean-American countertenor Kangmin Justin Kim – the first ever of his voice-type to take on at this address the role of Cherubino (usually cast as a female soprano or mezzo-soprano), and who makes a tremendous success of it; he is a seriously gifted actor.
Secondary roles such as Maurizio Muraro’s gleefully malicious Dr Bartolo, Diana Montague’s all-too-human Marcellina and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt’s brilliantly witty Basilio are in the safest of hands.
Period-instrument specialist John Eliot Gardiner leads a musical performance with some fast tempi but also with plenty of instrumental personality emanating from the pit, though there are surprisingly few decorations to the vocal lines.