Marriage of Figaro summer tour concludes

Bath Opera performed the final show of its summer tour of Mozart’s ‘the Marriage of Figaro’ at the Julian Slade Theatre, Prior Park College, Bath on 21st July after 7 performances in five venues. This last performance was in partnership with the Widcombe Association, probably the largest and most successful residents’ association in Bath. Bath Opera’s partnership with the WA goes back many years when we used to perform with them in marquees in Royal Crescent and in Widcombe Manor for as long as it was available, and we were delighted to renew our relationship successfully at Prior Park for last year and this.

The tour opened on 30th June at the Strode Theatre, Street followed by a performance the next day at the Rondo Theatre, Larkhall, Bath. We were welcomed by Robert and Patsy Floyd for two performances at Great Chalfield Manor, then two performances at the Memorial Hall, Wincanton. The performances at the Rondo, Great Chalfield and Prior Park were sold out, and in total an audience of 540 saw the opera. The tour fulfils a fund-raising objective as well as an artistic one, and just over £3,000 was contributed towards the expense of our main show with its costs for costumes, set, rights and orchestra.

William Stevens the director set his production in the 1950s in a big British film studio owned and run by an autocratic and dominating producer. The theme of this hilarious comedy is how the master is thwarted in his ‘droit de seigneur’ expectation of bedding his employee Susanna on her wedding night to Figaro, so it fitted well in the Harvey Weinstein era; however the ‘Count’ was no match for Figaro and Susanna, aided and abetted by the Countess and all ends happily to the wonderful strains of Mozart’s ever-popular score. The recitatives were replaced by comic narrations of the story by Antonio the drunken gardener (played by Dave Key Pugh), a most effective innovation.

As usual, the tour featured popular members of Bath Opera but with some great additions. Katy Garden made her first appearance with Bath Opera as Susanna, and brilliant young debutant singers Gabriella Eels, Alex Pinkstone and Bruna Figueiredo impressed in their first principal roles. With experienced regular members Andrew Havers, Niall Hoskin, Anna Fitzgerald, Roderick Hunt and Katharine Adams, the singing of the exacting ensembles particularly excited audiences.

Emma Cayeux stepped in late in rehearsals to accompany the performances and won universal praise for the quality and sensitivity of her playing.

Praise for Marriage of Figaro

The Fine Times Recorder’s review picked out Rod Hunt’s performance, ‘his wonderfully rounded and sonorous bass, coupled with a wicked sense of humour and perfect timing, enliven his brief moments on stage’. Also Bruna Figueiredo, who ‘makes an all-too-short appearance as Barbarina – audiences will be looking and listening out for her in future productions. Maybe your best [tour] yet!’

The reviewer for the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) said, ‘Wow! That is all I can say to sum up this production! The performance fitted the venue brilliantly and I loved the younger singers in particular. The virtuoso passages were wonderful … the clarity of diction from everyone was fabulous and the excellent musicianship of the whole cast was very evident to all.’

Here are some of the comments that audience members made afterwards: –

‘We enormously enjoyed ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, a brilliant production.’  (SN)

‘I liked its modern retelling because I felt it made it more accessible. It was so exciting to see some up-and- coming stars in the making and of course the seasoned performers really showed their experience an expertise. Really well done.’ (JC)

‘We absolutely LOVED it and had a super evening. The cast were all fantastic as was the pianist so we will definitely come again.’ (FG)

’Excellent performances and strong professional voices.’ (JC)

‘We really enjoyed ‘Figaro’ and thought all the cast were of very high class, also Emma on the piano was superb.’ (AP)

‘I really enjoyed the performance which was an excellent standard and offered good value for money.’ (WT)