uniformly excellent...

The Oxford Times, 30 July 2010

In typically adventurous mood, Bampton Classical Opera’s offering this year was the UK premiere of The Marriage of Figaro by Marcos Portugal, who enjoyed considerable success in 18th-century Europe but has since vanished into obscurity. Comparisons with Mozart’s version were inevitable, and it has to be said that Portugal’s music is not quite as engaging as Mozart’s, and librettist Gaetano Rossi’s adaptation of Beaumarchais’ play not quite as compelling and pacy as Da Ponte’s. And yet, as the familiar characters — Figaro, Susanna, Cherubino et al — filled the stage, it was impossible not to be drawn into this unlikely farce. The witty new translation by Jeremy Gray and Gilly French helped things along, as did the uniformly excellent cast that Bampton Opera is so adept at gathering together.

Nicholas Merryweather, who played Figaro in Bampton’s production of Paiseillo’s The Barber of Seville in 2005, stepped back into the character with ease, delivering a confident, spirited and vocally strong performance. Emily Rowley Jones matched him well as a charming and lively Susanna, Lisa Wilson gave a moving performance as Rosina and John-Colyn Gyeantey was full of convincing rage as the much put-upon Count. But the star performance, for me, was Robert Winslade Anderson’s Don Basilio, played with a subtle drollery that prompted some of the biggest laughs of the night. He also had one of the strongest voices on the stage, and was one of the few among the cast able consistently to make himself heard on this outdoor stage.

Jeremy Gray’s direction was, as always, minimal and unfussy, allowing the action to unfold without gimmicky distractions, and the Bampton Orchestra played with its usual efficiency under Robin Newton’s exacting baton.

Nicola Lisle