Lively Figaro played for laughs

Marriage of Figaro, by Opera North @ Theatre Royal, Norwich.

Marriage of Figaro, by Opera North @ Theatre Royal, Norwich

By Frank Cliff

There is plenty to amuse and entertain in Opera North's Figaro.

The attractive sets and costumes place it firmly in the 18th century in a production that is refreshingly free of the often all too heavy hand of the director; Caroline Gawn has concentrated on providing an uncomplicated evening with as many laughs as possible, but in the process we sometimes seemed to be witnessing something closer to knockabout farce than sophisticated comedy.

However the cast responded to this with tremendous elan and the singing is universally good. The recitatives sparkle, the ensembles are brilliant and if on Wednesday evening there was nothing remarkable about some of the arias, the singing was sometimes very fine.

Christopher Purves made a dynamic and wily Figaro, the voice rich and vibrant, especially in the middle and upper register; Colette Delahunt a superb Susanna whose final Act IV aria provided the evening's most magical singing.

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Roderick Williams made a fine voiced Count Almaviva but he didn't cut a very distinguished figure, and Majella Cullagh's Countess had a regal presence but was vocally not on best form.

Well paced conducting from Stephen Clarke and playing from the English Northern Philharmonia of which you hear none finer.

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