Waiting for Figaro
Bampton Classical Opera at London's St John's Smith Square,
enjoyed by DAVID THOMPSON
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
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
Copyright © 20 September 2002
David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK