A new year and a new challenge: an opera. I really enjoy the theatre, especially musicals and I have eclectic tastes in music, which includes the classical genre, but I have never been to an opera before tonight. What a sublime experience!
Scottish Opera’s production of The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, was a feast for the eyes, ears and emotions. This is a revival of the 2010 production, designed by Simon Higlett and Mark Johnathan and expertly directed by Sir Thomas Allen. This opera, in four acts, was ﬁrst performed in 1786.
The premise of the opera has elements of a classic Oscar Wilde play or a romantic comedy written by Shakespeare - mistaken identities, people pretending to be other characters to ﬁnd out the true feelings of another. In short Figaro (Ben McAteer) and Susanna (Lucy Hall) want to get married by their employer, Count Almaviva (Samuel Dale Johnson) has other plans, he wants to seduce Susanna without his wife, the Countess (Eleanor Davis), ﬁnding out. Add in the Page, Cherubino (Hanna Hipp), who is like a dog on heat and the meddling characters of Bartolo (Graeme Broadbent), Marcellina (Marie McLaughlin) and Don Basilio (Paul Curievici), then the story gets very interesting. All the ensemble members, including Kelly Mathieson (as Barbarina) and Donald Maxwell (as Antonio) create rich and varied characters that are engaging, spending time with them was extremely enjoyable.
Throughout the performance the audience are treated to a beautiful period set, wonderful costumes and great lighting, all of which create the perfect background for the players. The ensemble and the chorus create the most beautiful sounds, without ampliﬁcation. The power and passion of the baritones, basses and tenors alongside the purity and serenity of the sopranos and altos, sheer perfection. The ‘naked’ voice has an emotional resonance that is simply enchanting and when this is added to music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, magic happens.
The musical magic was produced by The Orchestra of Scottish Opera, ably conducted by Timothy Burke. Mozart’s music is instantly recognisable, intriguing and surprisingly complex. To experience his operatic work in its entirety was something very special, at times the music and voices lifted me to a state of near bliss!
I didn’t know what to expect from my ﬁrst night at the opera but I was pleasantly surprised and I would highly recommend it. My experience was supported by the very informative program and the LED screen above the stage displaying some of the key lyrics translated from the original Italian into English.
If you’ve never been to the opera before, I challenge you to try it and you can’t do much better than the Scottish Opera. This is their only visit to the North West this year, the ﬁnal performance is on Saturday 7th January at 7:15PM but if you’re still unsure you could book in for ‘The Marriage of Figaro Unwrapped’ - a free hour-long taster that gives an insight into the show and how it’s created; showing on Friday 6th January at 6PM.
Reviewer: Alan Harbottle
Reviewed: 5th January 2017
North West End Rating: ★★★★