Mozart and Da Ponte’s The Marriage of Figaro is an exuberant, near-flawless marriage of music and words, and of matters complex and simple. In Mid Wales Opera’s new big-hearted chamber-scale production, the work’s multiple twists and turns boil down to an exposé of human nature that’s at once forgiving and slapstick, yet whip-smart with social critique.
It’s cannily directed and designed by Richard Studer for touring to small venues, utilising Amanda Holden’s witty English translation and a perky reduced orchestration by conductor Jonathan Lyness, performed with spirit by a 10-piece Ensemble Cymru.
The minimal setting suggests a rural 18th century – until the characters appear in post-Second World War garb. Thankfully, this combination is not jarring. The farce sees servants and a wronged female aristocrat overcome various obstacles to join forces and defeat a predatory boss and husband.
Benjamin Bevan is oafishly stentorian as Almaviva, his Countess played with long-suffering determination by Jana Holesworth. Vocally and dramatically they’re a well-matched pair. In this fast-moving ensemble piece, the cast are a winning combination of established professionals and students from Wales International Academy of Voice.
Harry Thatcher is an excellent Figaro, outwitted by Galina Averina’s super-bright Susanna. While Olivia Gomez puts the cherub into Cherubino, Kate Valentine’s Marcellina and Mark Saberton’s Antonio steal the show whenever they appear. Dodgy twins David Horton (Basilio/Curzio) and Ian Beadle (Bartolo) offer comic support alongside Stephanie Smith’s giddy Barbarina and a delightfully gaggly chorus.