Welsh National Opera's the Marriage of Figaro
Smith, Mike, Musical Opinion
You have to hand it to opera singers; they cope with just about anything a producer and design team throw at them. And I would have said that is equally true of WNOs version of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro seen on 7 February - but sadly, no, tragically, in this case it is not true.
Apologies to the Iberian citrus fruit industry, but this farcical Figaro is as subtle as a sack of soggy satsumas. Once you peel away the pretty costumes and reasonably attractive sets from Franca Squarciapino and Paco Azorin some of what lies inside is best discarded while a few choice segments remain.
I would have said a Seville orange for his show that decided to throw Jeeves and Bertie Wooster into a nasty flick knife wielding and gun toting Andulcian caper while practicing some new dance steps for the May Ball. But there was nothing sharp or invigorating when you bit into this production.
Think elegant 1930s, dare I say, English aristocracy with stereotypic characters inhabiting a chic household with the sort of servants that you would sack on the spot, one who dresses as a French maid and prances around a lot and another who gives a good Oliver Hardy impersonation - and also prances around a lot.
In fact, with the dignified exception of the Countess, the entire cast seem to be suffering from St Vitas' Dance, which probably explains why the local quack has prescribed ballet bars in the boudoir and spotlights to let them pretend they are in their own little show.
The wine Figaro threatens with a flick knife and is then forced down poor Cherub ino's throat might be red, the flavour of the dance and gestures Spanish. Yes I am sure I got a whiff of turkey in this co production with Gran Teatre del Liceu. Maybe it was more to their taste when it opened in the run up to last year's festive season.
Fortunately the Cardiff first night authence responded accordingly when Barcelona director Luis Pasqual took his curtain call and gave polite applause having quite correctly reserved their enthusiasm for the wonderful cast.
I am not even going to bother the brain cells by wondering why Figaro sang to and bounced around a silver football that dropped down from the heavens at one stage. The closing act is difficult to stage as our characters are supposed to be fumbling around in the dark. Here the characters were dodging in and out of rather freaky, enormous House of Fun mirrors that had a life of their own. …