The Marriage of Figaro, Glyndebourne
A spot of Seville sunshine
Don Basilio (Alan Oke), Susanna (Lydia Teuscher) and the Count (Audun Iversen). Photo: Alastair Muir
It has been said of The Marriage of Figaro: ‘Only God and Mozart understand the fourth Act’. But this production, at Glyndebourne, was as easy to follow as the conga line that swung across the stage in the final scene – and as frothy as the champagne being supped in the interval.
This is director Michael Grandage’s second visit to the Sussex opera house – he oversaw Britten's Billy Budd in 2010 – and the production also looks forward to the beginning of a new Glyndebourne era. Conductor Robin Ticciati was on the podium for his first production since it was announced he will be taking over as music director from Vladimir Jurowski in 2014. And what a way to kick things off.
The setting is 1970s sun-drenched Spain – baritone Audun Iversen channels Austin Powers, all side-burns and flares, as Count Almaviva; while his wife, sung brilliantly by soprano Sally Matthews (pictured right with the Count), wafts around the stage in white wedges and a flowery dress. Christopher Oram’s revolving set was a treat, with Islamic patterns, pots of geraniums, water lilies and – crucially – plenty of places for characters to hide.
This is a cast with no weak links – baritone Vito Priante in the title role is cheeky and lovable and his Susanna – soprano Lydia Teuscher – does a good line in righteous indignation. Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard is just the right degree of irritating as Cherubino and, as Marcellina, Ann Murray steals a couple of scenes.
Matthews (who was interviewed in the July issue of BBC Music Magazine) was ravishing as the Countess, tired of her unfaithful husband. Her performance of the ‘Dove sono’ aria in Act 3 – in which she remembers happier times with the Count – was a high point of the evening. The audience listened, spellbound.
The notoriously confusing final Act here seemed perfectly straightforward (Grandage has spent years untangling Shakespeare’s comedies, after all). Even the more improbable moments, such as when the Count aims to hit Cherubino and instead ends up knocking Figaro to the ground, were deftly handled.
In the pit, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightment and Ticciati gave a bright, light performance, generously paced and intricately drawn. If this is a taste of things to come, Ticciati’s tenure at Glyndebourne will be a treat.
The Marriage of Figaro runs at Glyndebourne until 22 August. You can also watch it live online on Glyndebourne’s website, and at guardian.co.uk on 17 August. It will also be shown in cinemas across the UK on 17 August.