Bristol Hippodrome

WNO Figaro March 2016

Magnífico Mozart


With voices like satin andd silk and costumes to match the Welsh National Opera production of The Marriage of Figaro on Wednesday night at the Bristol Hippodrome was a magnum opus.
At one point I thought a crystal chandelier should shatter and at others it was heart-felt tension and throbbing sounds all wrapped up in a big smile.
But it is long and after three hours I had a numb bum.
Which brings me to the thought a little more sex might have held my attention more in the opening moments.
The opera is a romp in the Brian Rix mode of theatrical farce and although there were a couple of fully dressed couplings in the beginning nothing developed and a bit more bawdy action would have been good.
Now don’t get me wrong I am not talking Lucia di Lammermoor here as I know the Royal Opera House has been besieged with complaints when it pre-warned of sex scenes in its production based loosely on Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor. 
And I don’t want it vilified like the London company for its sexual violence in its production of Guillaume Tell last year.
The Marriage of Figaro is part of a trilogy of performances by WNO on the theme ‘Figaro forever’.
The first new production by WNO for 30 years of The Barber Of Seville by Rossini is billed as being upbeat and optimistic with fantastic slapstick energy. It is directed by young British theatre director and comic opera specialist, Sam Brown and conducted by James Southall.
And the final chapter in the trilogy Figaro Gets a Divorce is an affectionate sequel to Mozart’s classic where the final chapter of the story is brought to a close for these much-loved characters, whose relationships are put under intense strain by political instability in 1930s Europe. 
But we took the middle slice and were not disappointed although nothing will knock William Tell as our all time favourite.
The story is a ‘she (he) loves you, she (he) loves you not’ tale with a lovely Casanova character played by Naomi O’Connell as the amorous page with Mark Stone as rakish Count Almaviva competing for female attention.
A pivotal part of the ‘day in the life of’ plot is played by a pot of hydrangeas, mystery love letters, upstairs/downstairs pairings, questionable parenting and a wedding.
And the best bits – the humour.
Once I got it, it was so funny and the comedic acting including the comings and goings was scene stealing especially when the cast wore the Scottish Widows black cloaks.

But it is easy to get in a muddle and whiile I thought the production was 'a play within a play' theatre critic Gerry Parker told me I was wrong but at that point I didn't have a programme.
Oh! Did I mention the ‘droit de seigneur’ -  the alleged right of a medieval feudal lord to have sexual intercourse with a vassal's bride on her wedding night?
Well that’s in the story too and made me remember seeing US box office hunk Charlton Heston back in 1965 in The War Lord playing an 11th century Normandy knight getting down and dirty with a village virgin on her wedding night.
The set is ‘unusual’ – an 18th century period piece with avant garde touches like a single light bulb and modern ironing board.
Basically it is all fairground mirrors, bedlinen and ‘blobs’ of paint on suspended walls which created a mirage of ‘what do you see now’ psychological images - loved it.
David Stout as Figaro, Anna Devin as Susanna and Elizabeth Watts as Countess Almaviva were amazing but all the cast deserved a well-earned bow.
If you are quick you could book to see this opera on Saturday evening – I thoroughly recommend it.
With music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his librettist the Venetian poet and Roman Catholic priest Lorenzo Da Ponte this opera was composed in four acts way back in1786.

Conductor Timothy Burke played strings and led the perfect orchestra.
The only slight problem during the show was although sung in English it had intermittent surtitles which was annoying as we missed some of the dialogue. 

Carol Deacon


PHOTOS by Richard Hubert Smith

From top left Anna Devin (Susanna) and David Stout (Figaro); Susan Bickley (Marcellina) and Richard Wiegold (Doctor Bartolo);  Elizabeth Watts and Mark Stone (Count and Countess Almaviva) and MarkStone with Naomi O'Connell (Cherubino)

PREVIEW: Figaro Forever


Welsh National Opera’s spring season, Figaro Forever, will follow the fortunes of one of Operas most famous and much-loved characters.

Figaro Forever will celebrate the story of Figaro, a comic, wily character with a lust for life and a desire for matchmaking and mischief.

Welsh National Opera bring to the Bristol Hippodrome two new productions:

  • Rossini’s The Barber Of Seville;

  • Mozart’s The Marriage Of Figaro; and new opera

  • Figaro Gets A Divorce, all sung in English.  

Figaro Gets a Divorce by composer Elena Langer with a libretto by WNO’s artistic director David Pountney, is an affectionate sequel; bringing together the final chapter of the Figaro story.

The trilogy of operas has an exceptional design team, combining two of Britain’s most celebrated theatre designers and three established directors.

Set designer Ralph Koltai is the principal innovator of British theatre design and has designed some 250 productions of opera, dance, drama and musicals throughout the world.

Costume designer Sue Blane is one of the UK’s leading film and theatre costume designers who has been at the forefront of the European theatre scene for more than 40 years and is particularly well known for her original designs for the iconic Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The Figaro story begins on Tuesday and Friday, March 15 and 18 with Rossini’s comic opera, The Barber of Seville.

Upbeat and optimistic, Rossini’s sunniest creation is the ultimate feel-good opera.

The fantastic slapstick energy is destined to rub off on anyone who sees it - a fast-paced, whirlwind of crazy disguises, twists and turns and unlikely interventions.

This new production is directed by young British theatre director and comic opera specialist, Sam Brown and conducted by James Southall.

This is Welsh National Opera’s first new production of The Barber of Seville for nearly 30 years.

Mozart’s ever popular The Marriage of Figaro is on Wednesday and Saturday, March 16 and 19 continues the story.

A host of intrigues and romances are packed into one day: Figaro’s Wedding Day!

Over the course of the opera each character’s agenda, flaws, wit and strengths are exposed through wonderful music and a huge sense of fun.

Grand Théâtre de Gèneve director general Tobias Richter directs while WNO music director Lothar Koenigs conducts his last opera with the companyr.

Following its world premiere at Cardiff in February, Figaro Gets a Divorce comes to Bristol on Thursday, March 17,completing the Figaro Forever trilogy.   Figaro Gets a Divorce is an affectionate sequel to Mozart’s classic where the final chapter of the story is brought to a close for these much-loved characters, whose relationships are put under intense strain by political instability in 1930’s Europe.

Composer Elena Langer has written compositions in many genres including opera and multimedia, orchestral, chamber and choral works and together with WNO artistic director David Pountney has created a lyrical and striking ending to Figaro’s story.  

David said: “I had been intrigued by the idea of how the story might end and what the world of Figaro sounds like in the hands of a contemporary composer.

"As well as the everyday troubles, the rumblings of revolution were getting closer in The Marriage Of Figaro posing the question of how these characters would survive as their world breaks apart.”