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Armonico Consort's opera productions, in particular a sensational sequence of brilliant, quirky and unpredictable stagings directed by Thomas Guthrie -- Mozart's The Magic Flute, Purcell's King Arthur and The Fairy Queen (some melting extracts from the latter have been recorded on the same label, DXL 1120) -- have turned this well-rehearsed group into one of the popular and polished touring ensembles also.

Venturing further afield, they have a Dido and Aeneas planned for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (from 13 May 2008; for tour details, see below). And on 17 January Christopher Monks launched their latest venture, a full-scale staging of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, at the Arts Centre, University of Warwick, Coventry, followed by the Festival Theatre, Malvern (25 and 26 January) -- both on their own Midland home territory, which includes St Mary's Warwick, the Leamington Pump Rooms Concert Hall, Warwick's Bridge House Theatre and Shakespeare's Church of Holy Trinity, Stratford.

Katie Bird as the Countess Almaviva (right) with the below stairs chorus in Mozart's 'The Marriage of Figaro'
Katie Bird as the Countess Almaviva (right) with the below stairs chorus in Mozart's 'The Marriage of Figaro'

To judge from these buoyant discs and this musically delightful Figaro, from incisive overture to the tense and thrilling finale, the Armonico Consort's musical standards put many in the shade. Using just a string sextet (including double bass), and a bevy of really high class woodwind and brass (period horns, trumpets), Monks produces sounds that might be an orchestra treble the size. I heard one minor fluff that evening; and two scenes briefly lost momentum; all else was a joy.

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Copyright © 29 January 2008 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK

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