The Marriage of Figaro
Graeme Stewart sees Mozart come to life at Antrim Castle
Set against the magnificant 17th-century backdrop of Antrim Castle Gardens, the Opera Theatre Company’s production of The Marriage of Figaro was performed in beautiful period costume and with a keen sense of the Castle's grandiose surroundings.
In some respects, this would be a traditional performance of Mozart’s mischievous opera, with the rolling gardens acting as a substitute for the Spanish countryside and conductor Andrew Synnott interpreting the spirit to great effect.
John Molloy, who took on the role of Figaro with tremendous zeal and confidence, delivered a performance which captured the character’s chauvinistic prowess (particularly in his aria 'Aprite Un Po Quegli Occhi'), showing just enough charm to allow the audience to become entangled in his wild affair, at once sympathetic to his cause, but left with no illusions as to his intentions throughout.
Molloy was supported by a fantastic cast including Roland Wood, portraying Count Almaviva as a man besotted by the temptations of women, and Mary O'Sullivan as the temptation in question, Susanna - in essence, the central character of the work.
O’Sullivan’s sensitive tone was well suited for the part of Susanna and her interaction with the rest of her cast was seamless, allowing the audience to enjoy both comedic and tender moments with equal appreciation.
For this performance the audience was not treated to a full orchestral rendition, but rather a piano version of the score. While I missed the comic nuances of the orchestration and its delicate interplay with the singers, Dearbhla Brosnan's interpretation of Mozart’s score was technically superb.
Other highlights of the evening included Sylvia O’Brien’s performance as the Countess Almaviva, particularly in her solo aria 'Dove Sono i Bei Momenti', performed with great sensitivity, as was her duet with O'Sullivan in act three’s 'Sull’Aria'.
Martha Bredin’s portrayal of Cherubino was deliciously cheeky, providing many comic and slapstick moments, as was the case with Brendan Collins’ double performance as Doctor Bartolo and Antonio, supplying the perfect on-stage comic to Wood’s stooge.
The singers’ performances as a whole worked very well, in so far as the entire production was in English, and this is where the production seemed to break from tradition.
The language of opera, and the music written to such librettos, gains much from the linguistic nuances and tendencies of the written word, and a part of me rued the fact that, already having missed Mozart’s beautiful instrumentation, we were also missing da Ponte’s equally beautiful word setting.
On the other hand the language allowed the audience to relate more easily to the characters and provided the opportunity for some modern interpretations of the libretto. In addition, this also allowed the singers’ own portrayals to become more personally related to the audience.
The costumes, setting and sensitive interpretation all played their part in what was an enjoyable evening of music from one of the great opera composers of all time, performed by a great ensemble cast with high production values.
Director John Ramster, together with conductor Andrew Synnott, has put together a fantastic production which remains true to the spirit of the original while at the same time creating a more accessible route into the emotions and lives of its characters. For me, this performance was perhaps more of a chamber setting of the opera, but one that felt as though it was a private performance in public surroundings, and completely in line with the character of an opera buffa. Bravo Opera Theatre Company!