Opera Le nozze di Figaro, (Opera Holland Park)

In his latest review, Ceasefire's opera critic, Paul Guest, gives his verdict on a production of Mozart's 'Le nozze de Figaro' at Opera Holland Park.

Classical & Opera, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Sunday, July 3, 2011 17:24 - 0 Comments

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By Paul Guest

Le nozze di Figaro, Opera Holland Park, Kensington.
Mozart

Opera buffa in four acts.

Matthew Willis, conductor
Liam Steel, director

Matthew Hargreaves, Jane Harrington, George Von Bergen, Elizabeth Llewellyn, Hannah Pedley.

I had fought off Foo Fighters fans in Milton Keynes and Take That fans in London, just to get to Kensington to see this new production of Le nozze di Figaro at the esteemed Holland Park Opera venue. Unfortunately, the opera was incredibly average.

The opening overture played by the City of London Sinfonia and conducted by Matthew Willis was lifeless and nearly pathetic; the oboe sharp on their opening phrase didn’t help matters. The famous overture, badly performed, was accompanied by a group of dancers that persisted in dancing throughout the entire production, which was rather unsettling, and made the production look a bit amateurish and, well, quite silly.

Following on, Matthew Hargreaves had a few projection issues (we had been told that he had been struggling in the week leading up to this, the opening night) but were soon brushed aside and we got Figaro’s full vocal pelt, especially in his first Cavatina Se Vuol Ballare which, unfortunately, was led astray by conductor Matthew Willis, who unexpectedly hastened the end of various phrases. The sexy Susanna, longing for some rough attention from a distracted Figaro, appears in sexy leather boots, her voice gorgeous in tone throughout.

George von Bergen’s Count was surely a highlight, his voice bellowing from the stage in delightful dark colours that could probably be heard from the far side of the park. Elizabeth Llewellyn graced Holland Park with her vocal presence in moments of breathless delight. Hannah Pedley too was truly very expressive vocally.

However, despite all this, the production was dramatically shocking. Hargreaves was too much of a camp Figaro, nowhere near, how to put this, “manly” enough to be convincing. Llewellyn’s face and movement were blank; in fact there was no drama or comic value in anything she did. Despite her most wonderful voice she was dramatically stunned. The direction was truly bad. In fact, the whole production lacked the story’s key element: comedy. There were many fatal errors and, ultimately, it just didn’t work.

This entirely frivolous opera turned into something quite dull despite the hilarity of the narrative. Musically, it was weak and the orchestra were poor despite beautiful vocality from the principal cast. I believe Willis missed something quite important in the score, which was to shorten and separate the notes; everything in the orchestra and vocal lines were far too sustained, which didn’t allow for Da Ponte’s comically driven libretto to be conveyed as such.

All in all, a very dry Figaro on most accounts.

The production continues with 7 more performances ending on the 16th July. Visit http://www.operahollandpark.com or call 0300 999 1000. Productions of La Rondine and Rigoletto open soon.

Paul Guest is Ceasefire‘s Opera critic. He also writes for Classical Music Magazine, Gramophone and is the resident interviewer at Opera Britannia.

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