Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

The Marriage of Figaro

Mozart and Da Ponte
Clonter Opera
Clonter Opera Theatre
22 July 2017 to 29 July 2017

Clonter Opera has a remarkably good and large cast to offer in its 2017 summer production, and what’s more a very gifted and imaginative director in Stephen Medcalf, who’s come up with the idea of keeping the location as Spain (Figaro is the former Barber of Seville, remember?) but bringing the timing forward to that of the fascist 1930s.

It works remarkably well. You can believe the Count (army uniformed and a pretty nasty piece of work in this production) might really want to have his way with Figaro’s young bride who’s in both his clutches and his employ. Figaro’s position – smartly dressed chauffeur and smart-brained with it – makes him an inferior and yet capable of standing up to the boss with some success.

Designer Nate Gibson pays homage to Dali and Gaudi in a setting which is minimal (at Clonter it has to be) but evocative. The music is in the highly capable hands of Clive Timms, with Liz Rossi leading the Clonter Sinfonia who play a reduced score in the tiny Clonter pit.

The principals clearly know their business and they come together very well indeed in the ensembles. Are there some stars of the future at Clonter this year, as there so often have been in the past?

Margo Arsane (Susanna) and Henry Neill (Figaro) were impressive from the start. She’s a natural stage performer, acting and reacting to the story throughout, and her soprano is pure and clear, with power available but never over-used. He a gifted actor-singer with well developed tone in his voice and a lot of energy and charm.

Josep-Ramon Olivé as Almaviva has confidence and stage presence, Andrew Irwin brings a fine tenor voice and a real comic gift as both Basilio and Curzio, while Angharad Lyddon as Cherubino sings delightfully and has mastered the art (and walk) of being a girl playing a boy who at times is pretending to be a girl.

Elizabeth Skinner (the Countess) brings a lovely mature sound to her role; Eugene Dillon-Hooper is a believable Dr Bartolo, with Jade Moffat (Guidhall) vocally strong as Marcellina. There were valuable contributions, too, from Edward Robinson as Antonio and Corinne Cowling as Barbarina.

Reviewer: Robert Beale