Opera Scotland

Nozze di Figaro 2018English Touring Opera

Read more about the opera Marriage of Figaro

With the four-year rebuild of Perth Theatre now completed, it seems a strange decision, artistically, for English Touring Opera to continue at the Concert Hall. In the early years of ETO's visits (annual since 2001), the hall did not exist and they always brought two operas, one popular and one less so, sometimes giving two performances of the former.  However, notwithstanding the expansion of the theatre, the seating capacity is still more than double at the hall (roughly 1200 against 500), so on financial grounds the decision is understandable - only one performance need be given - even if only technically simple stagings can be accommodated,

During the closure, ETO were also restricted to the most popular repertoire. Scottish audiences have therefore missed out on several excellent stagings of rare works. At least this year we got a second performance from the company, a concert of rare Rossini excerpts from his  spectacularly difficult Neapolitan operas, justifiably entitled Fireworks! Several have not been performed in Scotland before. Also, with a smaller audience expected, and greater intimacy essential, the concert became the first operatic event at the 'new' theatre.

This new Figaro staging had been well received earlier in the tour. When it was first announced for Perth there were indications that it would be given as a concert, and that might actually have worked better. Perth has an excellent record of semi-staged performances, and in this case a very good representation might have been given with the band on stage and a playing area in front. Performers in costume could have worked wonders on an open stage with a few props.

On this occasion, however, there was a set, presumably adapted from the main one used on the tour. It was a kind of screen, fifteen feet high, in a folding concertina format, like a huge fire screen, that could be moved to create more space when required. It was a chilly blue colour, painted like an eighteenth century interior and had enough doors for the dramatic action. However it was otherwise quite restrictive, emphasising the width of the stage, without giving the characters much room for manouevring. It was generally unatmospheric and very unhelpful for lighting, so the final garden scene happened indoors in brought daylight. Perhaps worst of all, it seemed to affect the acoustic of the hall, so there was very little sweet tone either from the band or the singers.

In most other respects this was actually a very enjoyable performance, certainly well sung by a well-balanced cast in Neil Irish's beautiful period costumes. The Figaro and Susanna, Ross Ramgobin and Rachel Redmond, created three-dimensional and sympathetic characters. Katherine Aitken, a young Scot now based in Lyon, made a excellently boyish and well-sung Cherubino - perhaps too inclined to flap her arms. Indeed all the performers gave the impression they were trying to step up the comedy. Count and Countess were also well in command of their parts, though, as often, Nadine Benjamin's voice sounded creamier in 'Dove sono' and the letter duet than it had earlier in 'Porgi amor'. The character trio, Omar Ebrahim, Gaynor Keeble (quite majestic) and John-Colin Gyeantey were all excellent.

Christopher Stark took most of the music at fast speed in the modern search for authenticity - just occasionally he could have relaxed a little. One surprise in that context was the complete absence of vocal ornamentation from the singers, which nowadays sounds very strange. The role of the chorus in the third act is small but important, so they were missed (no bridesmaids or villagers), but as no chorus was needed for the other evenings this season it must have provided a significant financial saving for the company.

The other staged programme being toured was a revival of the Puccini double-bill of Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi. This was brought to Perth when new in 2011, before the theatre closed, and did not return to Perth on this occasion.

The Perth Festival had a second operatic event in the form of Scottish Opera's pop-up touring series 'A little bit of....'. These are brief performances of excerpts from operas using a narrator to supply plot and historical information to link the music, which was provided by a pair of singers with astutly adapted accompanment for two instruments. In this instance there were six shows over two days - three on Eugene Onegin and three on HMS Pinafore.

Performance Cast

Figaro the Count's valet

Ross Ramgobin

Susanna the Countess's maid

Rachel Redmond

Bartolo a doctor, the Countess's former guardian

Omar Ebrahim

Marcellina Bartolo's housekeeper

Gaynor Keeble

Cherubino the Count's page

Katherine Aitken

Count Almaviva

Dawid Kimberg

Don Basilio a priest and music master

John-Colyn Gyeantey

Countess Almaviva

Nadine Benjamin

Antonio a gardener, Susanna's uncle

Devon Harrison

Don Curzio a lawyer

Stuart Haycock

Barbarina daugher of Antonio

Abigail Kelly

Performance DatesNozze di Figaro 2018

Map List

Perth Concert Hall | Perth

17 May, 19.30

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