Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Marriage of Figaro - Scottish Opera

The Marriage of Figaro - Scottish Opera, Review, Theatre Royal, Glasgow October 2016.


Without having any great knowledge of classical music I have enjoyed going to see Scottish Opera at the Theatre Royal since I was a kid. They have always had a policy of having reduced price seats available for young people, so it is always worth just trying something out, with seats starting lower than tickets for a Scottish Premiership football match. With that in mind I took my three kids to see Mozart's Marriage of Figaro last night at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. Making it a family affair my mother-in-law was there too, and at times she was almost ready to sing along in parts as she had an old, well loved cassette of this opera at home once upon a time. 

Inside the Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Although for many people a night at the opera is a good excuse to dress up, theatre-going in Glasgow is never stuffy and I always think that there is a bigger mix of people and ages here than in theatres I have been to in London and Edinburgh. I do like the new extension at the Theatre Royal, with its twisting stairwell, and roof terrace for admiring the view with a pre-theatre drink. 
View from the Theatre Royal roof terrace
I last saw Scottish Opera perform the Marriage of Figaro in 1995, in what was an English translation and it did feel a bit like a Westend farce as far as I can remember, so I was glad we were getting it sung in Italian tonight, a revival of their 2010 production. As always there is English translation in the super-titles above the stage to help you follow the plot. 

Although it is filled with wild imagined conspiracies I enjoyed sitting down to watch the 1984 Oscar-winning film Amadeus last week to get me in the mood for tonight's performance. The Marriage of Figaro was written in 1786 by a 30 year old Mozart. It is based on a French play by Pierre Beaumarchais. The play had performed amidst controversy in Paris two years earlier, controversial for it mockery of the aristocracy. An earlier play involving the same characters has also become an opera, Rossini's Barber of Seville, which includes the famous "Figaro, Figaro, Figaro.." aria when this character first comes on stage. 

As with any performance by Scottish Opera the production values are very high, with beautiful sets and ornate costumes, which is what you expect from a night at the opera. The Scottish Opera orchestra sounded crisp and perky all night, in keeping with the bouncy music, with the old fortepiano giving an atmospheric harpsichord-like sound for the rhythmically spoken interludes. 

I thought the singing of all the characters was fantastic, with Ben McAteer, who I last saw in Scottish Opera's Devil Inside, a charismatic and knowing Figaro. Eleanor Dennis's voice soared when singing her solos as the Countess and when dueting with Anna Devin (Susanna) together they made a beautiful sound. The acting of all the characters throughout was excellent too, in what is basically a farce.

Personally I find Mozart's operas a bit too close to Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas (which isn't meant as a compliment) which this production plays up to a bit with lots of pinched bottoms and cross-dressing characters, and I do prefer operas where half the cast are dead from consumption by the end of the second act. There are too many gags in this story to make it one of my favourites. However my kids really enjoyed it despite it being three and a half hours long (still shorter than Lord of the Rings and they sat through that quite happily). Everyone else we were with really loved it too. Sometimes I think we can take Scottish Opera for granted. Despite their budgets being pinched they are still turning out high quality productions again and again. 

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