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The Marriage of Figaro, 2nd to 4th November 2017
Kennet Opera return to the Arlington Arts stage in another wonderful comedy, following last year’s hilarious Cinderella. In this production of Mozart’s upstairs/downstairs classic, Downton Abbey meets Aldwych farce, as Figaro, the butler, attempts to get married to his sweetheart Suzanna before the count can get his lascivious hands on her. His increasingly desperate stratagems to preserve his fiancée’s honour lead to multiple mistaken identities, cross-dressing, long-lost parents, secret assignations, locked doors, and much hiding in cupboards and jumping out of windows, before the situation is, of course, resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. And all sung (in English), with the Kennet Opera orchestra, to Mozart’s scintillating score.
Arlington Arts, Newbury.
Review of The Marriage of Figaro
2nd to 4th November 2017
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
An opera of our time
Marriage of Figaro has unexpected modern connotations
Kennet Opera: The Marriage of Figaro, at Arlington Arts, Snelsmore, from Thursday, November 2, to Saturday, November 4
When Kennet Opera chose Mozart's Marriage of Figaro for its autumn production, it could have had no idea how apposite the choice would be, its theme that of a sexual predator using the imbalance between his power and status and that of his wife's maid to try to coerce the young woman into bed.
Here sung in English, Figaro is a masterpiece of opera buffa, Mozart's comedy of manners propelled briskly along by the light, sparkling music and compositional structure. The opera is marked by very strong characterisation, requiring principals with agility of voice and comic ability. Their blend of voices in the ensemble pieces was a highlight, the septet at the end of Act II particularly pleasing, and the final section, We Will Revel All Night, amplified by the voices of the chorus.
Baritone James Corrigan, as the lecherous, arrogant, bullying Count Almaviva, has an expansive, rich, sonorous voice, with good diction and lots of vocal attack. He played the part with relish; an archetypal baddie.
Soprano Camilla Foster-Mitchell was an irresistible Susanna, sharp and sassy, with engaging vocal clarity and colour. She is also a very good actress, with spot-on comic timing. She and Figaro (Shaun Aquilina), with his warm, interpretive baritone and comedic skills, were well-matched.
The besuited Lydia Holmes as Cherubino made the most of her trouser role: animated, androgynous – and youthfully naive.
On the first night, Louise Harrington, as Countess Almaviva, was unwell. She was on stage throughout, however, acting the part but performing only the recitatifs, with the part sung from the pit by Christine Buras. This worked so well that a few minutes into the production one had forgotten the device. Christine Buras's accurate, expressive voice was particularly moving in the aria where the countess sings of having lost her husband's love. The plot, set on one day, is, of course ridiculously convoluted, with disguises, mistaken identities, anonymous letters, a significant hairpin, servants hiding in plain sight and a lot of comings and goings through doors and arbours.
Marcellina (Tamsin Slatter) is revealed to be Figaro's mother, and Bartolo (James Mitchell) his father, but in the end Susanna and Figaro are married, along with his parents. And the opera has a deliriously subversive edge, with the servants far brighter and more capable than their supposed betters.
Opera is a fiendishly taxing, exposed art form and several years ago Kennet Opera made the wise decision to use professional singers alongside members for its full-scale productions. There is thus invariably a disparity in technique, quality of voice and dramatic ability between the professionals and company members, this year greater than in some previous productions. Smartly directed by Stan Pretty, Figaro was costumed in late-Edwardian style by Lili Tuttle. The minimal set, by stage designer Suzanne Thomson, recycled some flats from previous productions (some recognisable from last year's Cenerentola), with props added very effectively when needed.
The nine-piece orchestra, under conductor Benjamin Hamilton, who also played a keyboard programmed to emulate the sound of a harpsichord, did sterling service in the pit, the quality of individual musicianship a pleasure to hear.
1791: Mozart's last year, summer 2017. See the review in the archive.
La Cenerentola, 9th to 12th November 2016. See the review in the archive.
Summer Concert, 25th August 2016 at Sutton Hall, Church Road, Stockcross
Summer Concert, 2nd July 2016 at St Lawrence's Church, Hungerford
Opera Gala, 18th June 2016
La Traviata, 5th to 7th November 2015
An Evening with Kennet Opera, 26th August 2015 at St John's Church, Stockcross
The Wonderful World of Opera, 4th July 2015
A Night at the Opera, 23rd May 2015
Nabucco, 13th to 15th November 2014. See the review in the archive.
Delight in Singing, 5th July 2014 at St Lawrence's Church, Hungerford
La Bohème, 14th to 16th November 2013. See the review in the archive.
Spring Sing, 5th July and 10th August 2013
Macbeth, 15th to 17th November 2012. See the review in the archive.
Die Fledermaus, 17th to 19th November 2011. See the review in the Archive.
Open Air Concert, 23rd July 2010 at Hungerford Rugby Club
The Elixir of Love, 24th to 26th June 2010. See the review in the Archive.
Carmen, 5th to 7th November 2009.
The Magic Flute, 13th to 15th November 2008. See the review in the Archive.
Faust, 8th to 10th November 2007.
Sweeney Todd, 8th to 11th November 2006. See the review in the Archive.
Eugene Onegin, 10th to 12th November 2005. See the review in the Archive.
The Pearl Fishers, 11th to 13th November 2004. See the review in the Archive.
The Elixir of Love, 11th to 15th November 2003. See the review in the Archive.
La Traviata, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th November 2002.
Cavalleria Rusticana & I Pagliacci, 13th and 15th to 17th November 2001. See the review in the Archive.
The Marriage of Figaro, 2000
A Masked Ball, 1998
La Boheme, 1997
La Traviata, 1996
Carmen (abridged version), 1995
Cosi fan Tutte, 1994