Opera North's The Marriage of Figaro Review | The Lowry | Manchester
The Marriage of Figaro follows a fierce set of complicated characters whose class, desires and pride fuel the fast-paced farce. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s tale, originally written in 1786, set against the French Revolution has been updated to pre-revolutionary Russia, allowing Opera North to confront a collapsing aristocratic rule in a new location.
Money and status are set to ruin the ceremony of Figaro (Phillip Rhodes) and Susanna (Fflur Wyn) before the vows have even been exchanged. With audiences sitting in as guests on the pairs chaotic wedding day, the looming Lowry sets the scene in a decaying manor where the once stunning house is being aired in preparation for the couple's wedding. The fading estate owned by Count Almaviva (Quirijn de Lang) and Countess Rosine (Máire Flavin) stands as a grandiose reminder of the world Figaro and Susanna reside, where their possessive bosses’ stranglehold over their lives is starting to form cracks.
The lover’s, hindered by the Counts wandering eye towards Susanna and the Countess’s desire to catch her cheating husband, takes the light-hearted romance into a comedy of entrapment and tricks. Overlapping verses, repetition and tomfoolery play a significant role in the production, as page boy, Cherubino (Heather Lowe) disguises himself as a woman to lure in the Count and Figaro deals with his agreement with Marcellina (Gaynor Keeble) to take her as his wife. The cynical love story layers its darker instincts and the debt of success with peeling scenery, playful characters and memorable melodies. Spun around its contemptuous and amiable cast, The Marriage of Figaro is a hilarious romp of an opera, offering charming performances that bring plenty of standout moments.
Built with passion and love, the comings and goings of the guests and the dilemmas they bring are offset by the busy, melodic lines of the live orchestra who perform Mozart’s unashamedly romantic score. Conducted by James Hendry, the spirited music, which is continuously shifting due to the confusion within the drama, layers the atmosphere with a range of confrontational lines. Driving the wonderful complexity of the story by interweaving the ensembles voices, the animated production presents a cast of characters you are happy to spend an evening spying on.
Director, Jo Davies celebratory scenes offer onlookers a perfect reimagining of the imperfect love story, with the smart production pointing the finger at the upper class that is propped up by the efforts of its working-class ensemble. Combining stories of mistaken identity, strayed love and debt, the ever-increasingly outlandish tale remains reflective and entertaining throughout. Doting and fury filled arias offer the sweetest tones between its amusing moments of guests jumping out of the closet and from behind chairs. The shows extensive cast were superb, with captivating performances from Rhodes, Wyn, and Lowe, the humour and convoluted story gives the three-hour production momentum.
Opera North’s lively production is a passionate affair with memorable melodies that will allure newcomers to the genre. Audiences should raise a toast to the witty tale and catchy orchestral classic that finds joy in the simple things in life.