The sun shone gloriously at Glyndebourne last Sunday, after a few weeks of unsettled weather, and it seems appropriate that the clement day celebrated a revival of Michael Grandage’s 2012 staging of Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). Arguably Mozart’s most purely enjoyable opera – and the overture, especially, remains a great favourite of many – it has been updated to the 1960s, a directorial decision that might seem perverse but in practice works perfectly, thanks to an infectious sense of joie de vivre in the singing, production and orchestra. It is a reminder – if one ever needed to be given – that going to the opera ought to be fun.
The storyline is an uncomplicated one, revolving around two central relationships, those of the servant Figaro and his bride-to-be Susanna, and the unhappily married Count and Countess Almaviva. There is the complication that, for hastily explained and not entirely clear reasons involving an unsettled debt, Figaro is also promised to the older Marcellina; this resolves itself in the second half in an outrageous comic moment that reduced the audience to giddy hilarity, no doubt helped by the lavish picnics that many had enjoyed in the long interval.
Figaro is something of a signature opera for Glyndebourne, but it’s easy to see why Grandage’s production has been revived, here skilfully re-interpreted by Ian Rutherford. The feel of 1960s Italy is suitably louche and sunlit, thanks to Christopher Oram’s rich and vivid design, and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, conducted by Jonathan Cohen, perform one of the finest scores in the repertoire with brio (although the overture might have been given slightly more voom). The top-notch singers include Davide Luciano as an energetic (if often bemused) Figaro, Rosa Feola as his equally bewildered beloved and, hugely enjoyably, a velvet-clad and dandified Gyula Orendt swaggers through as the Count.
Although tickets are just about sold out, this would make a very fine companion piece to Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), which is also on this season. Both feature one of England’s leading opera houses at its very considerable best, with wonderful pieces performed and produced with great intelligence and charm. And that, frankly, is all that we could wish in a summer evening’s entertainment.
Le nozze di Figaro at Glyndebourne until 24th August 2016. Production images by Robbie Jack. For more information and tickets visit the website.