A ‘farce rooted in reality’
It’s nearly 10 years since Opera North last treated themselves, and audiences, to Mozart’s crowd-pleasing comedy and this production comes fresh out of its box.
Director Jo Davies, and her international cast, have evidently had a lot of enjoyment in its creation and that comes across time and again in a performance that proves as funny as it can be heart-warming.
Davies has already impressed with her lightness of touch on previous Opera North productions of Ruddigore and Carousel.
Instead of comedy grotesques, the characters at the Marriage of Figaro remain, as in all the best farces, rooted in some kind of reality.
That’s all coupled with an ‘end of an era’ feel to the staging and designs.
Indeed at times, Leslie Travers’ set design looks to have borrowed from the backstage revelations of Noises Off, as much as the faded splendour of Sunset Boulevard, complete with a sumptuous staircase leading nowhere in particular.
This is grand opera but always with an essentially human touch.
It’s evident in portrayals that point up a character’s failings as much as their strengths, and even draws the audience into the plot by turning the auditorium lights up and making them culpable in Count Almaviva’s pleading aria for Act Three.
It earns Dutch performer Quirijn de Lang some of the warmest applause of the evening.
British baritone Richard Burkhard is a nimble Figaro; Norwegian soprano Silvia Moi sings Susanna, a role she has clearly already mastered across Europe.
Ana Maria Labin draws ample poignancy out of the Countess, and Australian mezzo soprano Helen Sherman revels in the page boy antics of Cherubino.
Amid all these international performers Barnsley lad Jeremy Peaker makes a broad comedy role out of Antonio, and leaves no-one in doubt of his Northern roots.
With La traviata and a double bill of La vida breve/Gianni Schicchi to come this week Opera North are only at risk of leaving their fans spoilt for choice.