Opera North's perfect fit of laughter


Friday, 10th January 2020, 10:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 8:15 am
Máire Flavin as the Countess in Opera North's The Marriage of Figaro
Máire Flavin as the Countess in Opera North's The Marriage of Figaro

This tale of sexual intrigue between the gentry and their servants in 18th Century Seville is one of the funniest farces ever written and when Mozart set Beaumarchais ’s play to his sublime music it became the perfect entertainment.

Like the lecherous Count Almaviva's natty riding outfit in Jo Davies’s lively production, it could have been tailored especially for Opera North.

The talents of the company’s excellent orchestra and chorus are to the fore, while the principals are an engaging mix of familiar faces without a weak link. Fflur Wynn is a sprightly Susanna, the servant girl about to be married to Figaro, but on whom the Count, a commanding but susceptible Quirijn de Lang, has wicked designs.

Baritone Phillip Rhodes is in excellent voice as Figaro and Maire Flavin is an elegant but vulnerable Countess. Heather Lowe gets plenty of laughs as pageboy Cherubino.

Leslie Travers's crumbling, but versatile set, which deliberately exposes the timbers with which it is supported, is the perfect metaphor for a collapsing feudal system.

If there is one caveat, it is that the comedy is sometimes overdone at the expense of the pathos which also runs through the piece. For instance, the lovelorn Cherubino's first encounter with the Countess could do with more longing and less larking around. But that is a minor quibble.

Philip Andrews