Le nozze di Figaro, Royal Opera House - classical review

Bringing back David McVicar’s durably enjoyable production of Le nozze di Figaro for its sixth revival, Covent Garden is treating it yet again as an ensemble work, with no superstar to upset the balance: the fine cast all interact harmoniously, enhanced this time by the sensitive conducting of David Syrus. Started the way he means to go on with a threatening ‘Si vuol balare’, the Italian bass Alex Esposito makes a boyishly confrontational Figaro, his well-rounded sound making a good foil to Gerald Finley’s rolling baritone as the Count.

Prowling the stage like an angry cat, Finley just gets better and better in this role, his burnished timbre at its best in the self-revelatory ‘Vedro mentr’io sospiro’, where he explicitly takes the character of unsuccessful lover and erring husband into something more sinister.

The Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling is a sparky and vocally secure Susanna, with a beautifully floated ‘Deh vieni non tadar’, and she blends beautifully with Rebecca Evans’s Countess in their letter duet. Making her Royal Opera House debut in that role, the Welsh soprano may have started tentatively, but having to launch straight into ‘Porgi amor’ is one of the most taxing entrances for any soprano. Her ‘Dove sono’ was much more assured, and she will surely grow into the part. Meanwhile Cherubino may be  a role where it is difficult to do anything wrong, but the classy performance of the Italian mezzo soprano, Anna Bontatibus, is surpassingly good: this is a singing actress of the first order.

Indeed it’s luxury casting throughout, with Marie McLaughlin, herself a former noted Susanna, as a spirited and good looking Marcellina, and the young Serbian soprano Dusica Bijelic making magic out of Barbarina’s exquisite little cavatina. As I noted in my Christmas predictions for 2014, this is very much a singer to watch out for. With the remaining parts in the safe hands of Christophoros (Bartolo), Guy de Mey (Don Basilio), Jeremy White (Antonio) and Timothy Robinson (Don Curzio) fine ensemble work is assured.

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