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Waiting for Figaro

Bampton Classical Opera at London's St John's Smith Square,


Bampton Classical Opera is an enterprising company whose main arenas are on the country house circuit in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. They recently abandoned the pure air temporarily and brought one of their productions to the 'smoke' of London's St John's, Smith Square. Now in their tenth season, they have made a significant and valuable niche in the operatic world with their espousal of rarely performed eighteenth century operas. Whilst, inevitably, the odd exhumation has not brought into serious question the decent burial accorded by history, our knowledge and experience can only be enhanced by their enterprise. All power to their corporate elbow!

No possible musical doubts, however, arise over the present production, Waiting for Figaro, which offers their fortunate audiences some glorious mature Mozart which has very rarely seen the light of day in live performance. If this seems unthinkable, let me explain that Waiting for Figaro is an entertainment offering the music Mozart wrote for Der Schauspieldirektor, K486, Lo Sposo Deluso, K430/421a and L'Oca del Cairo, K422. Lo Sposo Deluso exists as only four extant musical numbers, and L'Oca del Cairo as a virtually complete, but extensively unorchestrated first act, so that, whilst recordings have brought us the music, they have been unperformable as operatic dramas.

That is, until now. The joint directors, Thomas Guthrie and Jeremy Gray have come up with an ingenious idea to make an evening's operatic experience that makes complete sense, and which allows us the invaluable experience of seeing how Mozart's handling of operatic drama was developing between Die Entführung and Figaro. It is a positively revelatory experience that mere listening or score-reading cannot provide.

Bryan Pilkington as The Impresario in Bampton Classical Opera's production of 'Waiting for Figaro'. Photo © Gilly French
Bryan Pilkington as The Impresario in Bampton Classical Opera's production of 'Waiting for Figaro'. Photo © Gilly French

Their solution, which perhaps owes something to Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, is as simple as it is clever: take the music and basic 'luvvie' comedy of Die Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario), and re-write the scenario around a projected production of Figaro. The two prime donne, claws extended, audition with their over-the-top arias. But there is a slight technical problem. The Figaro score has not arrived. All spare copies have been assigned to more high-profile country house companies such as Glyndebourne and Garsington -- a nice bit of self-deprecating comedy.

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Copyright © 20 September 2002 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK


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