Scottish Opera returns to the Festival Theatre with Mozart’s The Marriage Of Figaro. It is their 2016 major production, following on from 2015’s Carmen and the company has excelled themselves with this production. Far more polished than Carmen and spellbinding from beginning to end, this, admittedly lengthy, opera was the most enjoyable operatic performance I have had the pleasure of watching.
Mozart’s music for the piece is beautiful, accompanying the singers perfectly and seamlessly joins dramatics and vocals in a marriage of performance. This production, along with the music, really brought a new meaning to the concept of musicals – watching this show made me question whether other musicals – more mainstream productions – were really musicals or just plays with catchy tunes. The whole plot and concept of The Marriage of Figaro seemed written through the music – the story existed through the music and vice versa. It is something quite spectacular to feel the music, with opera more than musicals one gets the benefit of a classical concert with the talent of classical singers and dramatic storylines woven through.
The Marriage of Figaro was very light-hearted with a political point – the nobility are examined and teased and a very important feature of the plot is the le droit de seigneur. This is the assumed right of the noble lord to sleep with a newly-wed bride from his estate on her wedding night. Although historically there is not a great deal of evidence to prove this took place it was clearly discussed during Mozart’s time and there were cultural connotations whether through folklore or actual execution of this ‘right’. The plot focuses on Figaro and his fiancée, who the Count lusts after, and his Countess who is feeling neglected. With many cheerful extra characters, often very over the top and funny, the play speeds through the three hours.
The performers were extremely talented. The arias of Anna Devin, Hanna Hipp and Eleanor Dennis were especially notable in the show. Opera is usually the show of the female singer and these three women prove how easily they can steal the show from their male counterparts. The onstage relationships between all the actors were extremely realistic and dynamic and at times it felt more like watching a very well-rehearsed film than a live show. By this it is meant it was an easy show to watch with little thought required from the audience, the sole requirement of the audience: just to enjoy it. Hanna Hipp’s performance as Cherubino was particularly beguiling, playing the cheeky flirt of the court she was always met with laughter and pleasure when she entered the stage.
My only qualm with the show, which might be one with opera in general, is the use of subtitles. I strongly feel they should either be used effectively throughout the show or not at all. The subtitles do not follow what is being said on stage – translations are often missed out, or repetitions not deemed necessary to have a translation which, if the audience does not speak the language, it can be difficult to identify a repetition. Too often translations were missed for one singer but added for the other and it was only just possible to get the gist of what was happening from the subtitles. It would just be more beneficial to fully translate the lyrics – audience members can choose not to read them if it interferes with their enjoyment but for those interested to know what is being said it is very easy to watch the performance and read subtitles as well. It was lucky the acting of the singers was strong enough to convey the plot of the show as unless you spoke the language it was quite possible people could become lost.
Despite my issue with the subtitles, it was not nearly enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the piece. Scottish Opera are performing a polished production that passes all too quickly and really exemplifies what made opera so popular.