Gallery and review: The Marriage of Figaro, Welsh National Opera, Birmingham Hippodrome

Following on from The Barber of Seville on Tuesday the Welsh National Opera last night offered Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in the second of its Figaro Forever season.

Gallery and review: The Marriage of Figaro, Welsh National Opera, Birmingham Hippodrome

Anna Devin (Susanna). Photo credit - Richard Hubert Smith

La folle journee was written in 1778, but banned before its first public performance because King Louis 16th of France objected that it showed an aristocrat trying to enforce his “master’s rights” by sleeping with a bride on her wedding night. The ban on the play was lifted in 1784.

The play was also banned in Vienna, but Mozart turned the story into the highly successful Marriage of Figaro, partly because the attack on nobility was changed into an attack on unfaithful women.

It’s set three years after The Barber, and Count Almaviva, now married to Rosina, is growing bored with his wife. Figaro works for him, as does his fiancée Susanna.  The only problem is that the Count wants to have his wicked way with Susanna on her wedding night.

So once again we have the ingredients for great entertainment—intrigue, love, power, sex, money, laughter, and beautiful music.

Susanna, the lady’s maid, is given a feisty and talented performance by the charismatic Anna Devin.

Elizabeth Watts is the neglected Countess and her singing accurately reflected her loneliness, and while David Stout showed a powerful voice as Figaro he didn’t really project a strong stage presence.

Naomi O’Connell’s Cherubino delivered her Tell Me Fair Ladies aria with considerable charm and Mark Stone played the lecherous Count quite convincingly.

Musical Director Lothar Koenigs set off at a cracking pace from the outset—though there was the occasional tuning problem. However, he will be leaving WNO at the end of this current tour. He has turned the Welsh National Orchestra into a disciplined and responsive ensemble during his eleven year tenure.

Tobias Richter’s production, like the previous night’s Barber, certainly made the most of the comic opportunities, but perhaps not entirely conveying the spirit of the original message.

The season continues with Figaro Gets a Divorce on Thursday, The Barber of Seville on Friday and the Marriage of Figaro on Saturday.

By Jerald Smith

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