Le Nozze di Figaro, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2010

This production by David McVicar, with designs by Tanya McCallin, contrasts the spaciousness of Count Almaviva’s house with the dingy servants’ bedroom to be inhabited by his valet Figaro and the Countess’s maid Susanna, after their marriage, and the effect works very well. The stage is made to look enormous, helped by the widening of the proscenium arch, and the sets are fully visible from the front of the Amphitheatre — a welcome change from some productions I could name! But it’s the performance that really counts, and we were lucky to have two superb men: Erwin Schrott as Figaro, and Mariusz Kwiecien as the Count. Along with Eri Nakamura as Susanna, their flawless singing and fine acting was a delight. Schrott has excellent comic timing and an extraordinary ability to sing as if he is simply talking, and it’s remarkable that Ms. Nakamura is still in the Jette Parker young artists’ programme.

In the servants’ bedroom, Susanna and Cherubino, with Figaro, the Count and Basilio, photo by Clive Barda

These three were very well aided by Annette Dasch as a statuesque Countess who, after an uncertain start, showed wit and suitable concern at her husband’s philandering. She was a head taller than Susanna, which was a slight disadvantage for the confusion of identities in Act IV, but Susanna stood on a box when she pretended to be the Countess, which worked well. Robert Lloyd and Marie McLaughlin were entirely convincing as Bartolo and Marcellina, Peter Hoare was hilariously precious as Don Basilio, and Amanda Forsythe sang very well as Barbarina. Jurgita Adamonyte sang Cherubino, but I was disappointed by her somewhat ungainly stage presence, and in Act IV she behaved like an over-the-top Baron Ochs. These quibbles aside it was a fine cast, and I congratulate the Royal Opera for acquiring the services of Schrott and Kwiecien. In the orchestra pit, Colin Davis drew a rich sound from the orchestra, though I felt the music became somewhat sluggish in the final Act.

Performances of this production continue until July 3, with David Syrus taking over from Colin Davis on June 20, and Soile Isokoski taking over from Annette Dasch. And for the last two performances Jacques Imbrailo, who is singing an excellent Billy Budd at Glyndebourne, takes over from Mariusz Kwiecien.

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