Eve Stebbing enjoys the ETO production of one of the world's most famous operas - The Marriage of Figaro.

The Marriage of Figaro

Theatre Royal


Director Blanche McIntyre shines a bright light into the dusty recesses of Mozart's first Da Ponte opera in this English Touring Opera production. This is a night of fun and japes that will really lift the spirits.

One of the key ingredients of the production's success is the libretto. It's in English for a start, which is always a help, and Jeremy Sams' translation is succinct and funny. So instead of being lost in the surtitles, the audience can laugh along with the action in real (musical) time.

What a giggle it all is. And with performers like Ross Ramgobin on stage, it's a sure-fire winner. He is such a convincing Figaro, full of gleeful zest for the tricks he and Suzanna play on the Count. It seems likely that Mozart identified closely with his opera's mischievous central character. He too had to operate in a world of aristocrats, where it was wit and talent that earned him a sense of equality.

At a time when we are re-thinking many of society's boundaries, there is something to be said for revisiting works like this. Mozart's opera popped up in 1786, when Europe was alive with revolutionary ideas. But as the servants best the master, thwarting his desire to cuckold Figaro on his wedding day, any political subtext is given a light-hearted handling.

And on the night I attend, not only does the plot perform its neat reversals, but so does fate. As Rachel Redmond playing the largest role - Figaro's wife-to-be Suzanna - was indisposed, she was replaced by the excellent and note-perfect Abigail Kelly, who normally sings Barbarina.

But it is Katherine Aitken as Cherubino who, cupid-like, steals the heart. Her intelligent clowning tickles the funny bone, too.

Sets by Neil Irish keep things simple, with a series of painted flats to suggest the sumptuous interiors of Mozart's time.

But the final word must go to the orchestra - in fine fettle under the baton of Christopher Stark.

Eve Stebbing