I’m making an extra effort to attend ENO productions to make the most of their ‘Access all arias’ scheme for 16-30 years old opera-goers to get discounted tickets. It means I get wonderful seats for a fraction of the cost and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen so far, no doubt aided by a better view of the Coliseum stage. I am finding opera writing increasingly compelling and hope my experiences of seeing the variety on offer at ENO will prepare me well for when the time is right to compose for the stage.
The set for Fiona Shaw’s new production of The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) was rather Ikea like in its conception – very minimal and colourless – yet this did a great deal to emphasis the characters and these were indeed full of colour. The singing was strong particularly from Susannah and there was plenty of humour in the acting which delivered the libretto at a good pace. I found the conducting – Paul Daniel at the helm – rather extreme in its dynamic shaping with rather uncontrolled crescendi but otherwise the playing was beautiful and utterly stylish. It made me realise that however modest a production might be the brilliance of Mozart’s writing and setting of the libretto will always shine through and raise the mediocre to the level of masterful. Such a minimal set – sensitively lit and the revolve was used to good effect – did much to accentuate the score rather than compete for attention from the audience. I thought this was a real strength and allowed (some) wonderful singing and carefully directed action to come over with ease.
For the age of the opera – over 200 years – it is remarkably fresh. Such a straightforward plot never loses its currency in our 21st century world and the wit and cleverness of Mozart is yet again undisputed.