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IN THE Marriage of Figaro, Mozart moves the action on from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, where Figaro helped Count Almaviva (Jonathan McGovern) marry.
The heroic protagonist, sung here by David Ireland, has become Almaviva’s servant and is about to wed the maid Susanna, beautifully acted and sung by Soraya Mafi.
But the licentious Count is intent on seducing Susanna and claim droit de seigneur. He and the Countess have been married for a few years and his eye is roving.
He’s not the only one. Page boy Cherubino – convincingly sung by mezzo-soprano Anna Harvey – is intent on seducing any or all of the women but especially Countess Almaviva (Anita Watson) who allies herself with the servants to foil her husband’s sexual intentions and rekindle his love for her.
In the ensuing farcical proceedings, with cross-dressing and a chaotic bedroom scene worthy of a Brian Rix farce, Ireland is a commanding presence until he is joined by his fiancee who manages to upstage him in every way.
When Susanna picks up a guitar from a wardrobe to accompany herself singing, her look of resigned annoyance as the orchestra strike up the tune is a laugh-out-loud moment.
Figaro was a revolutionary work, earning itself a royal banning with its portrayal of the upper classes being outsmarted and bettered by their social inferiors.
Despite the passage of time, leading roles for women today are still rare but Mozart’s opera provides them with the best songs and the humour.
While Watson stands out with her beautifully sung and finely acted Countess, despairing of her unfaithful husband, it is Mozart’s music and the ensemble singing and acting that take the plaudits here, delivering a breathtaking denouement.
Runs at the Millennium Centre and tours until May 6, box office: wno.org.uk
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