Opera Review: The Marriage of Figaro, National Opera House, Wexford

Spring seems to be still lurking in the wings but there was plenty to warm the cockles in the heartening premiere in Wexford of Irish National Opera’s production of The Marriage of Figaro.

As the base for Wexford Festival, the National Opera House is used to hosting obscure operas and it’s rare to hear a staple of the repertoire there. This opera picked up a thread started last year with Wide Open Opera’s production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville based on the same characters from plays by Beaumarchais.

Patrick Mason’s elegant production of Mozart’s comic masterpiece assembles a terrific cast who sing and act with aplomb to deliver an evening full of delights.

Mason sets the action in a stately home with 20th-century costumes that playfully merge a post-Edwardian era with the onset of the 1960s. 

A portrait of Mozart and a model of a Palladian mansion appear in the frame as emblems of the original period.

Individually, the singing is top class and the cast of voices are nicely balanced. There is a warmth in the well-matched ensembles and a sense that everyone on stage is enjoying every moment. Most of the cast are singers home from overseas, proof of the INO’s mission to support Irish talent. 

At the heart are the girl-power duo of Tara Erraught and Máire Flavin as Susanna and the Countess who conspire to save the men from themselves.

Ben McAteer is terrific playing the Count as a slightly thick toff and Aoife Miskelly’s gawky Cherubino charms us all. New Zealand bass baritone, Jonathan Lemalu is a velvet-toned Figaro. Peter Whelan directs the Irish Chamber Orchestra. 

Some of the warmest applause was reserved for Suzanne Murphy as Marcellina who sang with the original Irish National Opera company in 1974.

The news of the death of director Milos Forman reminded many of us of our cinematic encounter with this opera in Amadeus, a film in which Suzanne Murphy also appeared.

Sustained applause and a standing ovation rounded off a fabulous evening. 

Star Rating: 5/5

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