The Marriage of Figaro
TONY COOPER English Touring Opera at Snape Maltings
National Theatre director Paul Miller – his first foray into opera – sharpened up Mozart's great comic masterpiece by transporting the action from 18th century Seville to colonial Cuba. It travelled well!
The servants were selected from some of Britain's finest black singers, headed by Rodney Clarke (Figaro), while a white cast headed by Andrew Rupp (Count Almaviva) played their superiors. This was truly bold and imaginative casting.
But, before any purists reach for their revolvers – just catch the show. It's a marvel! The audience loved every moment of it.
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Clarke, a bass-baritone, was superb. He has a wonderfully rich-textured voice while the love of his life (and Almaviva's) Susanna was truly adorable, her voice sweet and tender and full of expression, particularly when disguised as the Countess singing the moving aria Dehuieni in Act III.
Julie Unwin portrayed the Countess with aplomb and dignity, and her big number about love and dishonesty at the start of Act II – Dove sono – was sung with clarity and passion.
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Andrew Rupp put in a good performance as the Count – pompous and suspicious as ever – but when the plug was pulled his humility seemed so gracious. Cherubino (Catrin Johnsson) as his page was boyish and fiendish, while Peter Van Hulle (Basilio) provided the perfect foil to the rounded and rich-toned voice of Keel Watson (Dr Bartolo).
Joanna Parker's freestanding set was practical and appealing and summed up old Cuba.
And the man in the pit Leo Hussain, deputising for principal conductor Ian Page at short notice, produced some excellent playing from his charges.
It was a memorable night!