The Marriage of Figaro

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

three stars

ESPECIALLY after the bold stagings of Norma and Cosi fan tutte that visited the Edinburgh International Festival this summer, there is no denying that this revival of Sir Thomas Allen's 2010 production of the first of the Mozart/Da Ponte collaborations looks a conservative affair, however clever Simon Higlett's sumptuous designs. So it was bracing to hear the Orchestra of Scottish Opera begin proceedings with a strikingly crisp – and brisk – account of the familiar overture. The musicians, under Swedish conductor Tobias Ringborg, emerge from the evening with the great credit, even if elements of the staging, and in particular the sometimes staid blocking of the principals, conspire to slow the pace over a long evening.

ITV's Downton Abbey first screened a month before this production premiered and something akin to the Downton effect appears to have afflicted this revival. It is perhaps most obvious in the dominance of the female characters, with Ben McAteer's Figaro a bit of a stuffed shirt never as in control as he believes and Samuel Dale Johnson's Count Almaviva most animated when he is on the back foot. Marie McLaughlin's lively Marcellina owes a little to Dame Maggie Smith and is more of a match than is often the case for Susanna (Anna Devin), the role McLaughlin played for Scottish Opera an incredible 36 years ago. She is vocally on fine form too, although the honours go to Devin, whose natural relaxed path through the score is exemplary.

The ensemble singing, a greater delight than the few famous arias, is beautifully balanced – notably the Act III sextet – but this Figaro is ultimately more silly than sexy.