It’s occasionally been suggested that Mozart’s greatest opera should be retitled The Marriage of Susanna. Last night, it was hard to disagree. This whole evening was illuminated, energised and at times effectively carried by its Susanna.
Elizabeth Watts was the ultimate soubrette; lively, intelligent, and with an irresistible sense of physical comedy. But she also probed deeply into the role; and her vocal performance ranged from bat-squeaks of comic indignation to a rapt, radiant Deh vieni that held the house breathless.
The other stand-out performance was in the pit: beginning with an electric account of the overture, conductor Anthony Negus kept the score springy and taut, with some spirited orchestral playing – Cameron Burns’ bravura harpsichord continuo deserves special mention. Still, this Figaro was strong in all departments. Dario Solari was a more than usually menacing Count, Rebecca Evans a heartbreakingly vulnerable Countess, and Jurgita Adamonyté an impulsively boyish Cherubino.
Lluís Pasqual’s unattractive production seemed to seek the opera’s darker, meaner side.
That would account for David Soar’s stylishly-sung Figaro – a brilliantined charmer with an oafish streak, just a few notches below the Count in caddishness.
Deeply unsettling: by the final scene, you wondered if even Mozart’s transcendent compassion would be enough to redeem characters like these.