I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
My debut poetry pamphlet is available at www.wildpressedbooks.com/david-keyworth.html
As any soap opera scriptwriter knows, a couple about to get married should have multiple obstacles and explosive family revelations strewn like confetti in the run-up to their wedding day.
Opera North's production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Photo credit: Robert Workman Joseph Shovelton as Don Basilio, Alexandra Oomens as Barbarina, Phillip Rhodes as Figaro, Fflur Wyn as Susanna and Quirijn de Lang as Count Almaviva with the Chorus of Opera North
In Mozart's - more traditional - opera, Figaro (a servant) and Susanna (a maid) have a prior marriage claim and a lascivious Duke to do battle with.
Opera North's production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Fflur Wyn as Susanna, Phillip Rhodes as Figaro, Gaynor Keeble as Marcellina and Jonathan Best as Doctor Bartolo. Photo credit: Robert Workman.
Count Almaviva is insistent on claiming his medieval Droit du Seigneur - i.e. his 'right' to bedroom shenanigans with a servant on her wedding night, whether the betrothed lady in question is agreeable to that prospect or not.
Quirijn de Lang plays the Count as petulant rather than anything more sinister. He spends the evening repeatedly catching-on that he is at the centre of another ruse to pull the rug from under his knee-length boots. There are shades of Basil Rathbone and Basil Fawlty in Lang's fine performance.
Le Nozze di Figaro was first performed in Vienna in 1786. It was based on the play La Folle Journée, ou Le Mariage de Figaro by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. Mozart's music propels the action forwards and flows like a river carrying a Party Boat full of quarrelsome passengers.
Although the music is both sophisticated and catchy, the story overall drags a bit behind it. The opera has been revived countless times but I am not aware of the original play outliving its era, in non-musical form. The numerous misunderstandings and plot twists are lightly amusing but they are often overlong and laboured and lack the dynamism of the musical score. It is also hard to keep track of all the names and their interrelationships, without a synopsis to glance at,
The sections where individual voices overlap sound enchanting but even with voices as strong as those of Opera North, it is inevitable that some individual words get drowned out.
That said, like any great dramatists, Mozart and the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte knew that a mixture of jollity and sadness is required to keep the audience engaged.
Máire Flavin as Countess Almaviva, gives a rapturous delivery of the aria Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro (Grant, love, some comfort) in Act Two. She is aided by a set design by Leslie Travers, which looks like a Dutch Master painting - with Susanna, a seated figure, sewing her dress.
Máire Flavin as Countess Almaviva. Photo credit: Robert Workman.
The libretto was originally written in Italian. The English translation used by Opera North is by Jeremy Sams. It has many nifty turns of phrase - "We'll meet you in the garden and grounds and you'll have grounds for divorce," and "Women must stick together for each other's sake, presuming our individual interests are not at stake," were two examples I scribbled down.
Overall, if I was a guest, making up the numbers at the wedding of Susanna and Figaro, I would have struggled to stay amused during the long speeches but be delighted when the band stuck up and sent us carousing into the night.
In addition to The Marriage of Figaro, Opera North is also performing Street Scene by Kurt Weill and The Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten at The Lowry, Salford Quays Theatre Royal, Nottingham until 21st March. See:
In November, Opera North will perform Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel, by Iain Bell and Emma Jenkins, first performed in 2019 at the English National Opera (ENO).
Opera North's production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Photo credit: Robert Workman. Fflur Wyn as Susanna, Heather Lowe as Cherubino, Jeremy Peaker as Antonio, Alexandra Oomens as Barbarina, Quirijn de Lang as Count Almaviva, Joseph Shovelton as Don Basilio, Máire Flavin as Countess Almaviva, Warren Gillespie as Don Curzio, Jonathan Best as Doctor Bartolo, Gaynor Keeble as Marcellina and Phillip Rhodes as Figaro