Dir. Sir Thomas Allen, Theatre Royal, 14th – 22th October
Walking in the Glasgow rain, humming Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino, my arms feel sore from the 15-minute applause I’ve just given. It’s absurd to think that just a few hours ago I’d been worried that perhaps such a classical opera wouldn’t translate well in 2016. To a postmodern feminist, can the many disturbing pranks of an 18th-century household really be funny?
The answer, I quickly realized, is a resounding “yes.” The Marriage of Figaro is after all an opera buffa – or, in layman’s terms, a comic opera. The sheer star quality of Hanna Hipp’s performance as Cherubino was enough to inspire more laughs from the audience than has been heard in any movie theatre I’ve attended as of late. This, combine this with a plethora of hysterical scenes – Samuel Dale Johnson’s cringe-worthy line as Count Almaviva saying to his wife disguising herself as Susanna, the woman the Count desires, that it doesn’t matter that they will be hiding in the dark; they “won’t be reading” springs to mind – makes The Marriage of Figaro a comedy that feels anything but dated.
From the brilliant opening where the Count’s mansion is assembled before our eyes, to the Countess’s bedroom that seemingly resides up in the clouds yet fails to shield her from the worldly problems resulting from her husband’s inane desire to cheat, to the final act’s immaculately constructed starry night scenery, this is truly a work of visual art as well as an exceptional auditory experience. The costumes were inspiring and their design was used to express certain traits possessed by the characters. The long, clean lines of Don Basilio’s Chanel-like suit emphasised his sass and sprezzatura, while the Count donned a striped, robe-like overcoat that added to his pre-established characterisation as a prowling creep.
Whether you go for the laughs, the pretentious Italian expressions you’ll pick up or only to experience the same worrying thoughts I did regarding how far we, as a civilization, can truly have come to find ourselves no less entertained than the opera’s original audience, Sir Thomas Allen’s production of Le nozze di Figaro won’t disappoint.
Images: Bill Cooper