The Marriage Of Figaro, Royal Opera House, London


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
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own