‘energy and commitment that compelled attention from first to last’ review by Gareth Jones
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THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
Swansea City Opera
New Wolsey Theatre,Ipswich
Sunday 6th April
‘Ipswich is East and Swansea is West and never the twain shall meet …’, not even the two football clubs nowadays. So it was a particular pleasure to see the Wolsey Theatre almost full on Sunday evening for the visit of Swansea City Opera.
Mozart’s masterpiece, often described as ‘the perfect opera’ has never lost its esteem or popularity and it is easy to see why. The tunes tumble out, waterfall-like and the bustling plot and attractive characters never fail to engage an audience.
Already embarked on an adventurous tour of England from Bridlington to Bracknell (shades of Noel Coward) the company used a reduced orchestra of violin, cello, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, drum and keyboard and everybody put in an excellent shift, especially the violinist and not least in the overture. Under John Beswick’s precise control, the effervescent character of the music was perfectly captured, although on a few occasions the music tended to overpower the singing and was sometimes – from where I sat – a little too loud in its own right.
The opera is essentially driven by Figaro and Susannah, bright servants running rings round their dimmer social superiors (the French Revolution was only three years off from the first performance), and it was fitting that we saw two superb performances from Aris Nadirian and Helen Massey respectively. Massey, bright voiced, energetic and smiling was exceptional throughout and Nadirian was a powerful stage presence and vocally authoritative. Rebecca Goulden was an engaging and impish Cherubino, full of meaningful glances and grimaces and she won the audience over.
Andrew Mayor was a credible and sympathetic Count, his warm, rich baritone comfortably filling the space and Martin Quinn gave distinguished performances as Basilio (with far-reaching headgear) and the pedantic lawyer, Don Curzio. Brendan Wheatley imbued the roles of Bartolo and Antonio with character and colour.
The opera was sung in English and much of the libretto came across quite clearly but, despite Elin Pritchard’s good voice, her diction was not as clear as one would have wished and the Countess’s heartfelt aria in Act 3 did not make its full impact. Imogen Garner made a strong impression as Marcellina and Georgina Stalbow a nice cameo as Barbarina.
Director Brendan Wheatley and designer Gabriella Ingram, with the restrictions and opportunities of a touring production, captured the spirit and dynamism of the opera with some astute and inventive staging. There was an energy and commitment that compelled attention from first to last and the performance received warm and justified acclaim.