Figaro’s wedding, Royal Opera House, review: a unique, exciting revival

What is an overture for? Orchestra neck cleaning, or a way to get the audience in the mood? Some composers use it as a shop window where they can see the upcoming tunes; some present it as a musical work in itself. Beethoven’s original overture to his only opera, Fidelio, was a miniature symphony in itself.

The directors vary in the same way. While some expect their audience to just enjoy the scenery, others make an overture as an excuse for an independent mime drama. David McVicar‘s way with the hissing overture of Le Nozze di Figaro is to place it among the natives in a castle from 1830 and to wrap it with mischievous little incidents which foretell what is to come.

McVicar’s elegant production strikes a perfect balance between the high seriousness and the slapstick comedy of this timeless, extraordinarily ingenious work, whose story unfolds in a single day.

As an experienced watchmaker, McVicar sets the wheels in for deception-in-deception that turns so quickly, yet so surely, that we do not miss a beat in the essay on love in all its forms, which drives the plot.

The opening takes place among homesteaders in a castle from the 1830s (Photo: Clive Barda / ROH)

The Count is sexually insatiable, while his vulnerable wife longs to regain the purity of their youthful love; The practical young Susanna can not wait to get married, while the poor mixed Cherubino is hopelessly in love with the love itself. Since right of lord was very much a topic in 1786, the opera originally spoke to current concerns; its relevance to me-too generation need no stress.

Below Antonio Pappanos musical direction, this new revival spins excitingly with a powerful and versatile Figaro (Riccardo Fassi) and a Susanna (Giulia Semenzato) who steers the stage with a live-wire presence and a sound of exceptional purity.

Hanna Hipp makes a nicely boyish Cherubino, Gianluca Burattos Bartolo has a voice like thunder, and the central foursome is completed with a Countess (Federica Lombardi) coming across as the truth’s most fighting voice, and a Count (Germán E Alcántara) offering a unusually dark interpretation of his predatory role. The scene where Susanna and the Countess strip and re-dress Cherubino should be sexier, but most of the farcical moments work nicely.

And while Alexandra Lowes Barbarina sings her exquisite cavatina, a wonderful scene changes: the castle retreats as the leaves begin to fall, and a forest takes its place, where male arrogance is humiliated and all thoughts of jealousy, pain, and revenge dissolve. in a chorus of forgiveness.

The packed house was ecstatic the first night: this felt like Covent Garden in the old pre-pandemic days.

Until January 27,

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