Edinburgh International Festival opera review: The Marriage of Figaro, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Susan Nickalls
Budapest Festival Orchestra’s performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro might have been billed as a staged concert but conductor Ivan Fischer’s colourful and enthralling production never felt that way as he blurred almost every line possible in what is, after all, an opera where nothing is what it seems.
For a start, the orchestra takes up most of the stage as a living set for the characters to interact with; indeed in the first bars of the overture the singers concealed amongst the violin section suddenly spring to life and start removing and changing clothes. That certainly got everyone’s attention!
Constantly in and out of costumes and doors, the singers had a busy time of it, especially Sylvia Schwartz as feisty Susannah, Hanno Muller-Brachmann as the silver-tongued Figaro and Markus Werba as the thwarted count.
This was a real ensemble effort but while the comic timing and singing was engaging, this sometimes left the more emotionally charged arias feeling under-powered, such as Cherubino’s (Rachel Frankel) heart-felt song You ladies who know what love is and the Countess’ (Miah Persson) aria Where are they, the beautiful moments?
The minimal staging featured elaborate costumes suspended in the air, just waiting for the singers to breathe life into them. They also played an integral part in the night-time garden shenanigans. Then there were the wigs which had a life of their own; jumping from head to head, and even into the audience, with delightful indiscriminate frequency.
But the figure at the centre of everything was the puckish Fischer strolling around the stage with his baton, listening sympathetically to the asides of the various characters – he gave the final nod to Susannah that Marcellina (Marie McLaughlin) really was Figaro’s mother – and demonstrating that music plus imagination is sometimes all you need for a truly inspirational production.
Edinburgh Festival Theatre
Published in The Scotsman on 15 August 2015
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