The Marriage of Figaro review – acute, witty and handsome, plus pom-poms

Opera Holland Park, London
Oliver Platt’s anachronistic take on Mozart’s comedy works well in OHP’s opening production, with superb ensemble performances

If you go to Opera Holland Park this summer, you may well find yourself sitting in an imitation Regency chair, as I did on opening night. Ever the most resourceful of companies, OHP have carefully and ingeniously tackled the issue of Covid safety with a new auditorium, designed by takis, that leaves the side walls open to the breeze and uses a flexible seating plan so that chairs can be grouped and regrouped as necessary. The chairs are recycled from previous productions – from other theatres as well as OHP’s own – whence the period furniture for the audience.

takis has also designed the opening production, a new staging of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, conducted by George Jackson and directed by Oliver Platt, a quirky, gaudily handsome piece of theatre in which the 18th century collides with the modern. A periwigged chorus waves cheerleader pom-poms as they sycophantically praise Julien Van Mellaerts’s libidinous count. Samantha Price’s Cherubino, already in military uniform, sings Voi Che Sapete holding the song’s rolled-up text like a microphone and looking like a 1980s New Romantic star, while the nocturnal confusions of act four are played out by flashlight.

Opera Holland Park’s The Marriage of Figaro
The 18th century collides with the modern...Opera Holland Park’s The Marriage of Figaro Photograph: Ali Wright

Platt’s interpretation is more domestic than political, though his psychological insights are often acute, and the relationships between Ross Ramgobin’s wide-eyed, witty Figaro and Elizabeth Karani’s knowing Susanna, and between Van Mellaerts and his dignified, yet desperate countess (Nardus Williams), are beautifully explored and observed.

As so often at Holland Park, ensemble values are high, though Williams in some ways stands out, singing with exceptional lustre and warmth: Dove Sono is quite simply ravishing. Van Mellaerts similarly makes a superb count, a dangerously attractive figure, capable of turning from charm to angry hauteur in a flash, his sullen reaction to his final discomfiture making the final scenes ambivalent in the extreme.

Karani’s silvery voiced Susanna, wonderfully self-assured, gives him as good as she gets in their confrontations, sounds lovely in the act three Letter Duet with Williams, and is touchingly affectionate in her scenes with Ramgobin’s naive, attractive Figaro. Price does fine things with Cherubino’s arias. Victoria Simmonds is the unusually sympathetic Marcellina, Daniel Norman the outrageously funny Basilio. The City of London Sinfonia, meanwhile, play superbly for Jackson, an excellent conductor, wonderfully alert to the sadness as well as the humour that permeates the score.

In rep at Opera Holland Park until 28 June.


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Marriage of Figaro review – Ireland's new opera company opens with unfussy Mozart
Irish National Opera’s first bespoke show needed more emotional depth and complexity, but musical standards were high, with Máire Flavin’s Countess and Aoife Miskelly’s Cherubino particular standouts

Andrew Clements

23, Apr, 2018 @7:48 PM

The Marriage of Figaro – review
Fiona Shaw's first foray into the operatic mainstream sounds good but is maddeningly busy and confusing, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

06, Oct, 2011 @11:32 AM

Article image
The Marriage of Figaro - review

Scottish Opera's new Figaro is great on stage, shoddy in the pit, writes Kate Molleson

Kate Molleson

31, Oct, 2010 @9:30 PM

Article image
The Marriage of Figaro review – beguiling cast bring clarity to the confusion
English Touring Opera’s production is beautifully sung and manages to bring out the tenderness within the comedy

Tim Ashley

02, Mar, 2018 @5:19 PM

Article image
The Marriage of Figaro review – zippy Mozart for the #metoo era with gender swap
This revival of David McVicar’s wonderful 2006 production sees an uneven cast and John Eliot Gardiner’s conducting sometimes too overbearing

Martin Kettle

02, Jul, 2019 @2:10 PM

Article image
The Cunning Little Vixen review – small scale but big impact for warm and witty staging
Janáček’s opera about the interconnectedness of humans and nature weaves its magic in Stephen Barlow’s new production, with Grant Doyle and Jennifer France both convincing leads

Erica Jeal

14, Jul, 2021 @1:25 PM

Article image
The week in classical: The Marriage of Figaro; LPO/Jurowski; Southbank Sinfonia/Clarke – review
Mozart’s opera was a triumph for its young cast, Vladimir Jurowski said farewell with Swan Lake, and a mixed British repertoire went back to the land

Fiona Maddocks

05, Jun, 2021 @11:30 AM

Article image
Glyndebourne and Figaro: a perfect match

George Christie grew up at Glyndebourne and his mother was the festival's first Susanna. He looks forward to a new production of Mozart's great comic opera

George Christie

22, Jun, 2012 @9:55 PM

Article image
The Marriage of Figaro; BBCSSO; RSNO; RLPO; Pli selon pli – review

Fiona Shaw's dizzyingly detailed Figaro is a little too action-packed for its own good, writes Fiona Maddocks

Fiona Maddocks

08, Oct, 2011 @11:06 PM

English National Opera's The Marriage of Figaro - video

Director Fiona Shaw tells Tom Service about her take on Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at the Coliseum in London

Tom Service and Alex Healey

06, Oct, 2011 @9:57 AM