There's a prospective marriage in jeopardy, a contract to be honoured, a mystery jumping man, confusion over locked doors... Mozart's endless inventiveness and virtuosic ability to keep so many musical ideas airborne at once is something to marvel at every time this evergreen opera is staged. In David McVicar's elegant production, revived at Covent Garden, the musical tapestry is lovely to look at too.
But with this revival comes an eighth voice – it's always there but it doesn't always make its mark as spectacularly as this. Under Royal Opera House music director Sir Antonio Pappano, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House is a character in its own right, as nifty as any of the schemers on stage, brimming with personality, driving forward like the Count, his servant Figaro, Figaro's bride-to-be, and all the others with their own agendas.
This colour and dynamism is heightened by Pappano himself at the keyboard of the fortepiano continuo, keeping the music skipping lightly forward, and at the heart of the action – singing, but instrumentally.
The Act Two finale is a musical marvel. Photo: Clive Barda
Such a thrilling blend of orchestra and singers is an operatic rarity, and all the greater treat for that. This winning mix is seasoned by a vivacious cast, largely Italian, who bring a commedia dell'arte sauce and vivacity to the party.
Baritone Riccardo Fassi and soprano Giulia Semenzato are Figaro and Susanna, the servants wrongfooting their employer's lecherous intentions on the way to their wedding. Fassi, amusing and rich-voiced, is a quick-witted match for Semenzato's sweetly sung Susanna. Soprano Federica Lombardi as the neglected Countess is magnificent but vulnerable, while Gianluca Buratto gives us an unusually musical meddling hanger-on Bartolo.
Argentinian baritone Germán E Alcántara as Count Almaviva, looking like the silent movie villain who ties maidens to rails, turns in a wonderfully frustrated performance, giving up on his Enlightenment contraption – is it a clock, is it a perpetual motion machine? – with an assault on the instruction leaflet familiar to anyone who was ever defeated by Ikea.
Figaro (Riccardo Fassi) plots against his lecherous employer with Marcellina (Monica Bacelli) and Gianluca Buratto (Bartolo). Photo: Clive Barda
Mezzo-soprano Hanna Hipp pops up everywhere as lusty teenage boy Cherubino, and there are entertaining turns in smaller roles.
Sumptuous in luscious creams, copper and peacock blue, Tanya McCallin's design conjures up both the veneer of grand living and the shabbiness below stairs.
After the marvel of the Act Two septet, there are even more loose ends to tie up in Act Four – voiced by 11 characters – humbling the Count, restoring the Countess, leaving the lovers in peace at last. This sometimes wearing last act whizzes by with Pappano spinning the plates. Truly, this is a magical evening.
Further performances are on 11, 13, 15, 19, 22, 25 and 27 Jan. Click here for booking
|What||The Marriage of Figaro, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Embankment (underground)|
09 Jan 22 – 27 Jan 22, Eight performances, start times vary. Running time 3hr 40min including one interval
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|