Ever since Le nozze di Figaro opened the inaugural Glyndebourne festival in 1934, the opera has been a signature work of the house. And Michael Grandage’s production, new last year and revived this season by Ian Rutherford, is fast establishing itself as a Glyndebourne classic.
A late 1960s setting provides a neat frame for Mozart’s comedy of manners. The class structures around which the narrative spins are still very much evident, while a whiff of revolution hangs in the air, and there is a sense that society is being increasingly shaped by ideas of image and identity. Certainly, the Count’s attitude towards women seems to tally with the sexual “freedom” and its double standards during the swinging sixties, even if the direct political context seems a little mismatched.
There is much to enjoy in the visual references too – although Grandage displays restraint where necessary. The Almaviva castle, a patchwork of Moorish architecture, with colourful tile patterns and filigree woodwork, beautifully sun-drenched by Paule Constable’s lighting, provides a fitting backdrop for floral shirts and floaty kaftans. And as the wedding party gets going towards the end of the third act, guests twist and jive against the glow of hot-pink disco lights.
A young cast displays some fine talent. Amanda Majeski’s Countess is dignified and moving; her performance of “Porgi amor” is poised but deeply reflective (as opposed to the sense of borderline-boredom that sometimes overshadows this aria) and a great showcase for her rich, resonant soprano. Joshua Hopkins is likewise superb as the Count, contrasting a smooth, honeyed tone with a characterisation that is lecherous and abusive. And Lydia Teuscher’s Cherubino is pure joy.
Adam Plachetka and Laura Tatulescu are excellently matched as Figaro and Susannah, technically assured and confidently acted – and with such consistent performances across the cast, Mozart’s glorious ensemble arias are a real highlight of the evening. Only the wide height differences within the central quartet make the charade over mistaken identity towards the end rather implausible.
Much credit should go to Jérémie Rhorer, making his UK operatic debut, who conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra with warmth and vitality – establishing pace and propelling the action forward, but with charm and a lightness of touch. The evening is a complete delight.