The Marriage of Figaro

★★★★
music review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 16 Aug 2015

It's midway through Act I of The Marriage of Figaro and conductor Iván Fischer is sittting onstage, kicking his heels and looking like a man at the beach. He leans in, and guides the Budapest Festival Orchestra (also onstage) into the next aria. Singers bustle in and out through the violins. The harpsichordist gets hit by a stray wig. It's all enormous fun.

Where this Figaro excels is in managing to appear novel without, really, requiring much tweaking – no need for a leaden metaphor or elaborate period-shift. Whether by skill or happy coincidence, the simple fact of placing the orchestra and actors on the same stage (a "staged concert" according to Fischer) seems entirely appropriate for Mozart and Da Ponte's opera buffa – a day of follies which sees rhyme, reason, role and status thrown up in the air before being placed neatly back again. In fact, one begins to wonder what would be done with all the boring dead space without the full orchestra getting stuck into the action.

A running theme whereby characters are separated from their costumes is probably less key to the perfomance than it thinks it is. It certainly adds to the general busyness of the staging, and there's a nice moment where Figaro removes the head from a mannequin of the count, reminding us of Beaumarchais' play's revolutionary heart. But a final set piece sees costumed mannequins lifted upwards on wires with the result that, for a few minutes, they dangle – as if lynched. It's either inconguously dark or—more likely—a rare technical blip in an otherwise brilliant staging.