Le Nozze di Figaro: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

by William Hartston (Express.co.uk)

Many years ago, I decided to transfer the best bits of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro to a cassette tape so that I would have something to listen to during a trip abroad. The trouble was that I could hardly bear to leave anything out.

The entire opera is like an endless stream of Mozart’s greatest hits, and when they are sung and acted to such sublime perfection as in current Covent Garden production, it makes for an evening of pure delight.

The title role is sung by the Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott, who has one of the most effortlessly powerful voices I have ever heard. He filled the opera house with his glorious tone, while displaying excellent comic timing and a range of gestures and facial expressions that accentuated both the ridiculous and the dramatic elements of the plot.

Figaro is about to marry Susanna (beautifully played by the Japanese soprano Eri Nakamura), who like him is a servant to the Count and Countess Almaviva.

The Count, however, wants to have his evil way with Susanna, and the main story-line revolves around Figaro’s plots to prevent this happening.

The Polish baritone  Mariusz Kwiecien, who played the part of the Count, looks rather like Derren Brown, with a similar style of facial hair, giving him a wonderfully intense and sinister look very appropriate to the role.

Mozart’s operatic genius is always most apparent in his duets, trios and quartets, when he blends the voices together in deliciously magical ways, but he also always makes a point of giving solos to the lead singers in which they can take centre stage and sing their hearts out to enrapture the audience.

Shrott, Nakamura and Kwiechien were all on scintillating form, giving this almost the air of a talent contest with all the leading performers getting better and better as the opera went on, as if trying to outdo each other.

With Annette Dasch (who apart from a superbly lyrical soprano voice has the most beautiful blue eyes in opera) as the Countess, and the Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Jurgita Adamonyte delightful in the role of the mischievous pageboy Cherubino, all the main roles left nothing to be desired.

The whole opera, including a half-hour interval, lasted three-and-a-half joyous hours. I would happily have sat through another couple of hours to hear more singing and acting of this quality, not to mention the perfectly controlled playing of the orchestra under the baton of the ever reliable Sir Colin Davis.

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