Saturday evening saw me take out my favourite lady, my Mum, for a night at the opera in Leeds-Opera North‘s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ to be precise, for a spot of culture!
Both opera fans, I have even worked with the English National Opera before, creating a film for them on a production they put on several years ago, Lucia di Lammermoor.
My work as a filmmaker was hugely diverse, every commission so varied from making social documentaries to fashion films and TV drama.
But back to The Marriage of Figaro-this Mozart masterpiece is a well known intricate, witty web of love and lust which unwinds over 4 acts in 3 hours (it is a little slow to start but picks up quickly) and the time soon flies as you find yourself thoroughly immersed in this outstanding ensemble cast’s performances (they can act as equally well as they can sing).
…Story-wise for those who don’t know it-servant Figaro learns that his master, the Count, is out to bed his bride-to-be, the stunning Susanna. The Count’s wife is heartbroken by her husband’s faithlessness – but she is the object of the adolescent desires of the page, Cherubino.
Figaro is also in trouble with the housekeeper, Marcellina, who has lent him money on the promise that, if he can’t repay her, he’ll have to marry her. Will Figaro marry the one he adores, will the Countess redeem her husband’s love and how will Cherubino fare?
It’s quite the farce with plot twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat, anxiously anticipating the worst! Fear not though, this is a comic opera and will make you laugh out loud!
Written in 1786, this is a surprisingly modern piece, with the women characters proving to the be the strongest on the whole. The women are the smart protagonists in contrast to their dumb male counterparts, driving the plot and taking action. Yes they are lusted after but never objectified and always with the upper hand.
An understated but all-consuming spectacle, sung in English and unusually natural in delivery, you can follow the plot easily and effortlessly and the play felt cinematic to watch.
The attention to detail is breathtaking from the early 20th century take on the costume design (hunting boots and sweeping dresses) to the romantic lighting (sparklers in hand at the finale against a dark stage was magical) and the production design so considered (torn decor within the palace signified broken relationships and a nod to Chekhov and pre revolutionary Russia), gave the play the wow factor.
…It also must be noted, there is nothing that compares to a live orchestra, I was swept away by it and felt utterly soothed and renewed by curtain call. Opera, and all classical music, truly touches and feeds the soul. Like a breath of fresh air, I returned home almost floating on air.
What a night. Such a wonderful night at the opera. Do go see it if you can.
The Marriage of Figaro is on at Leeds Grand Theatre until 27 February before a UK tour.