MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.

Error processing SSI file

Other Links

Editorial Board

  • Editor - Bill Kenny

  • Deputy Editor - Bob Briggs

Founder - Len Mullenger

Google Site Search


Internet MusicWeb




Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro: (New Production)  Soloists, Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera,  Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff 11.2.2009 (BK)

Co-production with Gran Teatre del Liceu
Conductor: Michael Hofstetter
Director: Lluis Pasqual
Designer: Paco Azorin
Costumes: Franca Squarciapino
Lighting: Albert Faura
Choreographer: Montse Colome


Figaro: David Soar
Susanna: Rosemary Joshua
Dr Bartolo: Henry Waddington
Marcellina: Sarah Pring
Cherubino: Fiona Murphy
Count Almaviva: Jacques Imbrailo
Don Basilio: Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts
Countess Almaviva: Rebecca Evans
Antonio: Arwel Huw Morgan
Don Curzio: Howard Kirk
Barbarina: Sophie Bevan
Bridesmaids: Laura Pooley, Alison Dunne

The Full Cast

As Figaro predicts in 'Se vuol ballare', Count Almaviva - and pretty well everybody else for that matter does dance to his tune in this production.  George Bernard Shaw once said that “Dancing: (is) the vertical expression of a horizontal desire,  legalised by music.If that’s anything like the idea that director Lluis Pasqual had in mind for this production, then he made the point more than clearly. There was dancing at almost every turn: Susanna did ballet exercises in the bedroom, the gardener reporting Cherubino’s escape bounced about with a potted plant and the concluding fandango in Act IV was a riot of… (ahem).. well, jiggery-pokery.  It was a decent device for the comedy in this opera, although not quite as lustful as Shaw might have expected.

The production was launched at Barcelona’s Liceu in November 2008  (see review) and its arrival in Wales coincided with the UK’s worst winter weather for years. I missed the opening night and caught up with it on its second outing.

If dancing is a major theme for this setting then another is 1930s Spain – on the face of it, a period making no immediate sense given the Count’s seigneurial designs on Susanna. Presumably (although I am happy to be corrected on this point) ius primae noctis wasn’t exactly prevalent in the years before the Spanish Civil War, so perhaps the impending war itself was meant as a secondary reference; appropriate enough to Beaumarchais’ novel  but rather less so for da Ponte's text.

The sets used a subtle palette which was occasionally quite lovely - with Tiffany-esque colouring for the garden in Act IV -  and a kind of empty, nouveau riche dullness for the rest. Maybe designer Paco Azorin  was reflecting the Countess’s barren life with his muted colours, maybe the garden, with its flowery hues and multiple perspectives caused by moving mirrors, was meant to symbolise a passion - fuelled  peasantry, or maybe Mr. Azorin just likes beige and grey. There was  certainly  a lot of that about but Franca Squarciapino’s costumes were attractive and oddly reminiscent of Jack Vettriano’s paintings.

Rosemary Joshua was a persuasive Susanna, as convincing as a dancer as she was singer and actress, and seemed to enjoy herself hugely on stage. Marcellina, Sarah Pring, was also vocally impressive and another very able actress projecting her character’s different facets very clearly to both cast and audience. Fiona Murphy as Cherubino was very good as a boy, and it is possible that the 1930s costumes helped her play the role without coy over-acting or the usual striding about and posturing. Rebecca Evans sang the Countess very prettily with some unusual ornamentation in ‘Dove sono.’

Fiona Murphy as Cherubino

Apart from the contributions by Mesdames Joshua, Murphy and Pring, the rest of the acting was curiously low-key. There was no great sense of anyone feeling strongly about very much at all, and while this did allow the humour to emerge – reinforced by Miss Terpsichore herself - the opera’s sexual jealousies were seriously underplayed. It's possible that this was intentional, I suppose, comparing the flat emotions of the bored noble classes with an oppressed peasantry keeping their feelings to themselves for safety perhaps. Sadly, the only certainty about the idea was that it was very hard to be sure if it was true. 

Among the men, David Soar was a  resonant, strong-voiced and rather too amiable Figaro and Jacques Imbrailo’s Count was also convincing vocally.  As  rather a weaker (or over-directed)  actor,  if my theory about the absence of much emotion is right, this Count's dubious morality was never in question but his languid waving of a pistol at the audience suggested little more than neurasthenia rather than pure menace.

Everyone in this team sang well including the WNO chorus, but extra drive from Michael Hofstetter’s conducting would have been more than welcome.  Like much of the acting, Hoffstetter’s direction was decidedly restrained and did neither singers nor orchestra any great justice.

A curate’s egg then; and a  quirky but watchable production with an excellent team of soloists. The audience enjoyed it immensely, including the man in front of me who  provided a free running commentary for twenty-odd of his immediate neighbours.

Bill Kenny

Pictures © Bill Cooper

Back to Top                                                    Cumulative Index Page