The Marriage of Figaro, Norwich

CHARLES ROBERTS Truly the music of Mozart’s masterpiece is here given the sensitivity and expression, the understanding and care, which it assuredly merits.


Strange is the so-often seen dichotemy these days of the continuing quest in opera for musical excellence and verity, both on stage and in the pit – side by side with sets which obstruct rather than complement, intrude rather than enhance.

But enough of that, for truly the music of Mozart's masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro, performed by Glyndebourne Touring Opera, is here given the sensitivity and expression, the understanding and care, which it assuredly merits.

It began last night at the Theatre Royal, Norwich, with the overture – zestful, glittering, pulsing with life, under Harry Bicket's discerning direction, leading into that opening scene where the seeds of conflict are planted, setting servant fervently against master.

James Rutherford, our local Norwich-lad-made-good, has the role of Figaro under total control, a many layered interpretation where the shadowed side is allowed to show – a touch, one might say, of Scarpia with a sense of humour… and a taste for revenge. His bass baritone rumbles downward, dangerous and dark, as suspicion chills him, and “Se vuol ballare, signor Contino” (If it's a little amusement you're after) tells us swiftly that the Count has a battle on his hands.

From this point on, Mr Rutherford's Figaro never lets us down, voice, emotions, body language, ranging in primary colours.

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Effortlessly he is able to whisk with lightness and deftness of touch his teasing of Cherubino, his advice on the military life, “Non piu andrai” (Say goodbye now to pastime and play lad). It is a delightful cameo, witty and amusing.

His Susanna, Collette Delahunt, is a Susanna to remember with pleasure. She looks beautiful, bright eyed, intelligent and spirited; she is a natural actress with a penchant for comedy; and she sings with flowing, sparkling vocal lines which are effortless in their execution.

We have a richly appealing Cherubino, too, Louise Armit, spiriting up a true character, a young chevalier of charm and elegance, with a youthful voice to delight, plus gesture and physical deportment which are a study in themselves.

D'Arcy Bleiker is the Count, svelte and dark as a picture-book Spanish don, and with the kind of honeyed baritone which holds the ear as surely as his physical interpretation holds the eye.

Through sheer physical dignity and cool, patrician beauty, Sinéad Mulhern is a hypnotic Countess, with a vocal silkiness and emotional command which reaches its apogee in “Dove sono” (I remember days long gone).

Musically and theatrically an evening of real operatic pleasure.

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