Whether or not I would always say so in a review, I see a lot of opera productions which seem under-directed and even more that seem under-rehearsed. So it's a particular joy to see the exact opposite: a production in which everyone knows exactly what they should be doing on stage. For Glyndebourne’s revival of Michael Grandage’s 2012 production of Le nozze di Figaro, I tip my hat to revival director Ian Rutherford and revival movement director Kieran Sheehan for getting every one of the large ensemble to execute the exceptionally complex stage movements which make such a huge contribution to the comic effect.
When we’re in bedroom farce mode, the movement of one character keeping just out of sight of another is pin sharp. As Cherubino, Natalia Kawalek (a late replacement for the indisposed Serena Malfi) moves with compelling teenage masculine gawkiness. Christopher Oram’s extravagantly garish costumes are set in the 1960s (Almaviva’s ghastly Bee Gees outfit is particularly memorable, as are the Countess’ flowing robes): the various dance moves are toe-curlingly embarrassing, especially for anyone who remembers the gruesomeness of the disco dancing of the time. All this happens against the backdrop of monumental Sevillian moorish architecture, realised by Oram in exquisite detail: colonnades, mosaics of tiles, intricate tracery. Nothing is left to chance: the party background of Act IV is denoted by purple light spilling out from each side of our imagined room where the action takes place
The direction extends to both facial and vocal expressions of the cast. These are not huge voices – it’s Mozart and it’s Glyndebourne, so they don’t need to be – but every voice is up to a high quality and every singer is focussed on interacting with the others. The septet that closes Act II was riotous, the “Sua madre” scene (in which everyone, but most especially the Count, is befuddled by the realisation that Marcellina is Figaro’s mother) even more so. A few groups of audience members behind me, who had presumably not seen Le nozze before, lost control completely, guffaws of laughter resounding at every plot twist and every gag in the surtitles.
Figaro is a great opera, of course, but that doesn’t automatically make every production a winner. In spite of the lack of individually outstanding voices, leaving the house last night, I hardly heard a dissenting voice from the hubbub of what a magical opera this had been: it goes to prove what can be achieved when conductor, singers, directors and designer pay fanatical attention to every detail of the work they’re performing.
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