Synthesiser creates a fight at the opera

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A daring new production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro has provoked outrage amongst Parisian opera-goers.

A synthesiser replaces the clavicord. A musician moves on to the stage dressed as a tramp, blowing into beer bottles and quietly singing.

During the opening performance at the weekend, grumbles erupted from the auditorium and one man roared "pathetic". Another proclaimed: "Mozart ridiculed." There were slanging matches between spectators, some of whom loved the new interpretation, others who loathed it.

The director of the Paris Opera, Gérard Mortier, was obliged to stand up in his seat and shout "But it's in Mozart!" to quell the uproar. A lull followed, but did not last for long. The conductor, Sylvain Cambreling, was booed as he returned for the second act.

Christophe Marthaler, the Swiss director, is responsible for the contemporary take on Mozart's classic, transposing the setting from an Andalusian castle to a wedding-dress shop lit with neon lights and a scruffy registry office.

The production, first performed at Salzburg in 2001, marks a radical change at the older of the two Paris Opera houses, the Opera Garnier. Giorgio Strehler's "elegant" take on The Marriage of Figaro had previously reigned for 30 years.

Despite the mixed reception, the show will go on. M. Mortier judged the reactions "healthy", adding: "The opera is a living art."