A marriage made in heaven

cast of figaro

Tom Stoddart as the Count and Sarah Minns as Susanna

The Marriage of Figaro

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

*****

THE simplicity of this semi-staged version with a new, brilliant libretto and orchestration of just three accompanying musicians (piano, viola and clarinet) is wonderfully funny, brilliantly directed by Sarah Tipple and gorgeously sung in English.

I loved the start, where the cast set the stage during the overture. The plot makes EastEnders read like a Ladybird book, but I will attempt the basics.

Two separate casts double up for the tour so please forgive if I have the personnel wrong. The lecherous Count (Tom Stoddart) has resigned his Droit du seigneur, the right of lords to bed the lower orders, just when the eminently fanciable Susanna (Sarah Minns), maid to Rosina the countess, is due to marry his servant Figaro (Alistair Sutherlund).

The Countess Rosina (Louisa Tee – what a voice!) is feeling ignored and Figaro sends an anonymous letter to the Count to say that Rosina is in love (as is most of the court) with charming page Cherubino (Felicity Buckland) who, discovered hiding behind a chair in Rosina’s room, is packed off to the battle front.

Much semi-clad toing and froing and defenestrations later, Figaro needs to pay his debt to Marcellina (Mary-Jane de Havas) or be forced to marry her. Bartolo (Henry Grant Kerstwell) the lawyer would happily stand in.

But this is a comedy and Marcellina turns out to be Figaro’s mother, Bartolo his father, Susannah hiding in the garden for a secret assignation with the Count is replaced by Rosina to the joy of all concerned, Susanna and Figaro marry, and charming Cherubino is the only loser.

I enjoyed this immensely, and it seemed that the cast did too. I particularly enjoyed Bartholo slapping a judge’s wig on the pianist’s head (Alex Beechen) when they ran out of cast – who happily sang enthusiastically on top of all the other things he had to do!

Opera Up Close is well named. Using just the front of the stage made the whole effect supremely intimate. Some very clever and minimal use of props, particularly a picture frame that doubled as a window, made it also feel improvised and immediate. The theatre was full and I hope Opera Up Close return.

Jane Howard

21-01-15 

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