Le Nozze di Figaro Royal Opera House 11 February

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Photo of an earlier outing of this production (from musicalcriticism.com)

The evening started rather badly–not only was Bow Street full of fencing to keep proles penned in during the coming BAFTAs, but the place was comprehensively closed up two hours prior to kick-off, contrary to an email the ROH sent out promising business as usual.  Anyway I witnessed a lady with mobility problems and her companions spending a long time trying to get into the glass box on Bow Street or to summon aid or indeed to get in contact with anyone.

Once the management had decided to stop pissing on the paying customers–if only for a time–and let us in, things took a decided turn for the better.  Under Antonio Pappano’s direction the music zipped along very pleasingly, and some very precise on-stage action was greeted with copious and unforced laughter from the Upper Amphitheatre.

I certainly felt a lot more engaged than the previous time I’d seen this production–between us the only thing my companion and I could remember of that outing was the dog.  But I still worried about the design that had a lot of empty space both vertically and horizontally dwarfing the characters.  I thought that this piece was about the characters and their interactions, not the memory of all the dead generations weighing like a nightmare on the brains of the living.  But since the setting here has been updated to a time after the French Revolution, maybe that is the idea.  In which case the Duke ands his hankering after the ius primae noctis is both loathsome and ineffective.

As so often, one didn’t really feel any danger of the Duke (Lucas Meachem) raping everybody in sight–neither he nor the Figaro of Ildebrando d’Arcangelo made that much of an impression on the audience or each other, and it was left to the females to provide the starrier singing, though again it was a team effort rather than a case of starriness.

I was pleased to see that the audience was really quite young (about the same kind of age range you’d see at the theatre) and there were not a few genuinely young people in it.  I opined that while 19th-century opera required you to accept either a demi-monde of women who were not not prostitutes or a romanticised travesty of various historical period or the atrocity exhibition from Wagner, operas from an earlier or later period might be easier of approach at least in this respect.

At the end the ushers barked at us to remove ourselves more quickly so that they could prepare for the serious business.

Pissing on the paying public again!

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