FIGARO HERE. FIGARO THERE. NOBODY DOES MOZART BETTER THAN ENO.

We review the latest new interpretation of this classic Opera, at London Coliseum’s English National Opera.

The trick in delivering “Marriage of Figaro, is not that everybody knows the story – it is that, it doesn’t matter if they don’t. The opera itself excels when it is just funny, absurd, stupid, ridiculous, – Brian Rix farce with melodies. At what point does an audience get bored watching people hiding behind doors? Actually, – never. They keep laughing. The young couple in front of me told me this was their first ever opera. This was no academic analysis. This was a night out. It does not get better than this. Heavens, don’t we need it at time like this!

This new production minimises the set, to focus on the simple reality of; have lots of doors, have people coming and going, from wherever and whoever, you have no clue. And make sure the singing is tight, crisp, – absolutely choreographed. Simples. Unusually for ENO, the opera opens straightaway into the Overture, there is no clever preamble – and then you understand. As soon as the doors start to open, close, total organised chaos ensues, and it never lets up.

And yet it is clearly more than that. Listening to Hanna Hip in discussion a few weeks earlier talk about her assessment of Cherubino, this opera depends on drama, of the protagonists reaching out to their audience. This is echoed by the complex but deliberate direction – the movement of the singers is like a jigsaw of interlocking and non-interlocking pieces – set against a pure white background of just four doors, that open, and close.

Despite the fact that for several, this was their first night Debut at ENO – Kevin John Edusei as Conductor, Bozidar Smiljanic’s debut as Figaro, and Louise Alder as the standout character Susanna – this delivery is everything that ENO does well, a sort of relaxed but very fast and spot on performance, that combines the many subtle and little touches, and letting the glorious music and melody take you along for the ride.

I loved the interplay of of Figaro and Susanna, and the small choral groupings towards the end of Act 2 were mesmeric. Even the Act 1 choreographed photo-shoots in the Overture, were clever, different, you wanted to lean in and see where all this nonsense is going.

I cane away wanting to come back and see the production for a second time – I am sure like a good movie, I will “get” even more, now that I know what is happening. Then again, who’s to say I will be any the wiser second time around?

ENO CONJURES UP MORE MAGIC


We review the first night of the favourite Mozart’s “the Magic Flute” at the London Coliseum.

Ever since my days at University and falling in love with the Magic Flute even as a teenager – Mozart Opera has always held a special place in my heart. In the same way that “relationships” need constant adjustment and spark – so the magic of ENO is its re-interpretation, at every level, of the Operas that it performs.

This was my second viewing of this original production. But not for my two ladies who sat next to me. This was their first ever opera performance. They chose the right topic and evening.

This performance was sharp, very well constructed, the classic ENO minimalist approach of letting the performers take you by the hand on the journey, the mix and almost conversations of orchestra and protagonists, and particularly principal flautist Claire Wickes wandering into the stage in dialogue with Papegeno.

The sudden-ness of the orchestra kicking into life as we start with full lights on in the auditorium – to grab our attention, and the humour of the Chaplin-like screen writing, tells us everything we need to know. This is no classical Mozart. This is Mozart made modern.

You can only do this, of course, if you have the professional immaculate singing. ENO excels at the Chorus, the groups of singers. And yet this was the area that for me was the least convincing this time around. It took a while for the Three Ladies to get into gear – but this is to be picky. I loved Lucy Crowe as Pamina, and Rowan Pierce later on as Papagena is always funny and spot on – she gave a brief synopsis of the approach when she sang just a few months ago at the ENO Celebration Evening.

ENO is always very clever and relaxed when it does Mozart. This “Magic Flute” is up there in competition with its staging and performance of “Cosi Fan Tutte “ a couple of years ago.

It is a performance to enjoy as an old friend. But it is also for newcomers. One of the key aims of ENO is to widen the approach to a wider audience. My ladies sitting next to me, were not disappointed.