Image courtesy of Scottish Opera
The Marriage of Figaro
Where to begin? When an experience is as enthralling as Scottish Opera’s rendition of The Marriage of Figaro, it is hard to do it justice within the confines of a short review. It would be perfectly fair to assume that a performance of four acts, lasting three hours and 15 minutes would become tiresome and monotonous. Yet, from the overture through to the final curtain call, this show remained sharp in directorial decision, hilarious and, of course, exquisite in its vocal arrangement.
A multi-sensory experience, it gave way to an avalanche of applause lasting several minutes: never before have I wanted to congratulate each individual involved with such volume.
This famous story follows on from another opera, The Barber of Seville. Set in Spain, The Marriage of Figaro tells the tale of Count Almaviva’s (Samuel Dale Johnson) attempt to pursue Susanna (Anna Devin), his servant maid who is betrothed to Figaro (Ben McAteer). Leaving his Countess (Eleanor Dennis) broken hearted and Figaro furious, they and Susanna join forces to expose the Count and manipulate him back into cooperation. The result is an evening of witty humour that, surprisingly, manages to stay away from slapstick comedy.
This was a revival piece, yet there was still an overwhelming freshness to it. That might have been in part due to director, veteran Sir Thomas Allen, and set designer, Simon Higlett. Together they cleverly separated and characterised each act with simple but entirely altering manipulations of the set and actors. There is no doubt that this was some of the most exquisite set and costume design to descend upon Festival Theatre.
What made the set all the more wonderful though were the seamless transitions and the detailed manner in which the cast interacted with it. Such attention to detail must have been painstaking to envision, let alone rehearse. The result was exceedingly natural; almost like watching a film. Each time a singer moved into a new space they completed another composition akin to an 18th century painting. I dread to think how much time and skill this must have taken.
Of course the quality of the show was not entirely unexpected: audiences have come to greatness from Scottish Opera, and even more from Mozart’s great masterpiece. Nonetheless it should be justly recognised. There are far too many notable moments to recall them all. Though particularly special were Cherubino’s (Hanna Hipp) aria, ‘Voi che sapete che cosa è amor,’ in act two and ‘Ultima Scena, Gente, gente, all’armi, all’armi’ in act four. Anna Devin’s voice was splendidly delicate when layered with any other female voice, but the result was particularly emotive when paired with Eleanor Dennis’s.
Scottish Opera’s production of Figaro was an unforgettably overwhelming experience: one that will stay with me, and one that I intend to repeat.