REVIEW: The Marriage of Figaro – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

What do you do with a work that is almost universally adored? Leave well alone is always the sensible answer and Sir Thomas Allen brings his traditional, no-nonsense 2010 production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro to the stage again for Scottish Opera.

Anna Devin and Ben McAteer as Susanna and Figaro

Anna Devin and Ben McAteer as Susanna and Figaro

If this were a beauty contest, then Simon Higlett’s 18th Century, pastel-hued, chocolate box design and Mark Jonathan’s atmospheric lighting would together make it a hands-down winner, however, looks alone don’t make for a successful production. At three hours fifteen minutes, the audience needs more than a pretty set to occupy it.

Hanna Hipp as Cherubino, Eleanor Dennis as Countess Almaviva and Anna Devin as Susanna

Hanna Hipp as Cherubino, Eleanor Dennis as Countess Almaviva and Anna Devin as Susanna

While there are more than a few standout moments there are as many lulls. The comedy largely falls flat, except when the laughs are wrung out of the audience through some broad comic acting and some of the directorial/design choices lend little to the storytelling – why, for example, was the Countess’ closet door (pivotal to the plot) hidden from sight?

Eleanor Dennis as Countess Almaviva

Eleanor Dennis as Countess Almaviva

That said there are notable highlights, Eleanor Dennis’ Countess is beautifully measured, both vocally and in dramatic delivery, Hanna Hipp, no stranger to trouser roles, is utterly convincing as randy youth Cherubino, as is Lucy Hall as the lively Barbarina. The usually reliable Ben McAteer is vocally sound as Figaro but a trifle lacklustre and Samuel Dale Johnson (Count Almaviva), while setting hearts a-flutter with his good looks, needs time for his voice to mature to fully fulfil this role. Conducted with vigour (at times, too much vigour) by Tobias Ringborg, the orchestra is in fine form throughout.

A solid, sound production, beautiful to look at with some glorious moments but not without its faults.

Runs until 22 October at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow then touring.

Details and ticket information here.

Images: Bill Cooper