The Marriage Of Figaro, Royal Opera House, London

4.00

Hear those hormones rage

An immense room, a tiny maid, mop and bucket at the ready - another day, another three acres of floor to scrub. It's going to be an eventful 24 hours in the Almaviva household, and, to the strains of the busiest overture in the repertoire, the preparations begin here and now. A fleet of servants ferries household supplies back and forth. There's enough food to feed the whole of Seville and already, one can sense, enough intrigue to keep it in gossip for years to come.

David McVicar's brilliantly observed staging doesn't waste a second in setting the scene. Before the overture has run its breathless course, we know exactly what kind of household we've dropped in on. Tanya McCallin's huge sets look lived-in - a little grubby, a little the worse for wear, despite the obsessive scrubbing. These walls have tales to tell and the juiciest of them is about to unfold.

The text and spirit of Mozart and Da Ponte's best opera has rarely been more thoroughly and painstakingly explored. Not a word, not a motivation has been taken for granted. No rattling aimlessly through recitatives impatient for the next big number. Both the Countess's arias, for instance, can and do often feel marooned in glorious isolation - marvellous set-pieces far removed from the ebb and flow of the action. But here they emerged like painful truths from the surrounding fabric.

Dorothea Roschmann's extraordinarily intense account of "Dove sono" was genuinely a moment of self-revelation. The deployment of aching embellishments in the da capo was for once neither cosmetic, nor musicological, but entirely dramatic. Earlier in the same scene we witnessed the Count (the superb Gerald Finley on blistering form) - "unfaithful on principle", as the Countess so perceptively puts it - angrily taking stock of his situation in plain view of all the characters on which his slowly unravelling plot is so dependent. The point being that he has little or no control over the events unfolding around him. The super-naturalism of every action and interaction here speaks volumes for detailed preparation. It's good to see such finely tuned ensemble work in a major international house. For once, it's more than evident where all the rehearsal time has gone.

If I had any criticism of the staging, it would be that the scale of it sometimes threatens to overwhelm the intimacy of this most "domestic" of dramas. McVicar and his designer are so at pains to convey the cultural divide that the grandiosity, the exaggerated gauntness of the sets becomes almost cosmic. But the cast are in the main so strong as not to be undermined. At the centre of things Erwin Schrott's charismatic Figaro is as cocky, confident and showy with his big notes as you could wish. But he must beware of carrying his vividly laddish way with the recitatives too far into the sung text. I wanted to hear a little less speech-song and a little more pure singing.

Miah Persson's deliciously pretty Susanna certainly provided that. Her final-act romance, ravishingly sung, truly revealed the tender-hearted young woman beneath the feisty exterior. And, boy, is she feisty. She slams the door on Figaro seconds into the first scene of the opera and you know that it's only a matter of time before she duffs up Marcellina. That's why Figaro loves her so much. She fights for what she wants. As for the randy Cherubino, Rinat Shaham (such a memorable Carmen at Glyndebourne a couple of seasons back) has him panting at the bit from her breathless "Non so piu" onwards. Again, a wonderfully complete performance. You can almost hear the hormones raging.

And speaking of raging hormones, Antonio Pappano is unstinting with Mozart's. With the pit raised for optimum immediacy, his big-boned and romantic account of the score may not always ring true in terms of style, but it does remind us in this big-birthday year that of all the gifts Mozart gave us, this one may be most precious.

To 25 February (020-7304 4000)

Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue