The University of St Andrews Opera Society’s production of the Marriage of Figaro, which ran for three nights at the Byre Theatre from the 11thto the 13thof March, captured the comic spirit of this work of opera buffa excellently, and showcased some of the best musical talent this university has to offer.
This comic opera is notoriously convoluted and includes a Shakespearean amount of characters hiding in improbable places, being mistaken for others, and disguise. Figaro and Susanna are to be married, but their lord and master Count Almaviva keeps finding a reason to delay the marriage because he wants to have his way with her as well. The three become involved in innumerable plots and schemes almost exclusively behind each other’s backs before Figaro and Susanna eventually wed.
Musically, the production was nearly flawless. The orchestra, led by Fanny Empacher, played the well known, and no doubt intimidating overture with aplomb, despite having some instrumentalists on stage rather than in the orchestra pit. It was clear that some of the singers were very well trained, and some less so, but this is to be expected from a university production, and certainly did not prevent the audience from enjoying the music. Many of the singers were excellent, with Ross McArthur’s Figaro delivering some suitably rousing numbers, and Emily Fielder beautifully opening the fourth act with Barbarina’s aria “I have lost it, poor me.”
In such a musically excellent performance, with such good production value (they had a signature cocktail for the evening! It was lovely), the acting and movements of the singers were not up to scratch. Firstly, the opera is comical, so some camp or hammy acting would have been suitable. The opera was also performed in English rather than Italian, so many parts which would have been sung were instead spoken, making the script often clunky and ungraceful. However, this does not excuse the bad acting, especially from some of the finer singers in the piece. One scene in particular which could have been a comic highlight of the first act was instead claustrophobic and awkward as the four actors on stage kept trying to stand behind each other, not using the limited space left to them by the otherwise excellent set design.
Overall, The Marriage of Figaro was an accomplished production, which, though often marred by a moment of sub-par acting or repetitive movement, never stopped entertaining and impressing.
Photos courtesy of Kat Gunya.