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What was especially satisfying was the way extended instrumental sequences, from the latter stages of the overture to the great twenty four minute final dénouement -- were constructed with thoughtfulness and insight, the orchestra revealing, both individually and en masse, a beguiling range of dynamics and gradations, from a subtle undertone to a blazing fortissimo climax.

'Armonico's production will be fast-moving, pacy, sexy and funny. It will be a great, great night at the theatre', says director Michael McCaffery. And Mozart and Da Ponte do indeed constitute a great night at the theatre; but possibly not this (purportedly) 1950s, Gosford Park/Upstairs-Downstairs staging. Such a claim would require a finer observation and period sense; this production came near, in places, to plodding.

Katie Bird as the Countess
Katie Bird as the Countess

Not so the voices. The best numbers included both the Countess's arias (Katie Bird, delightfully attired and a lovely voice with a beauty all its own and an attractive consistency to the vibrato); the Count's great vengeance monologue at the start of Act III (Simon Thorpe: this was one of the most compelling bits of Michael McCaffery's variable staging, with Almaviva dining alone, invoking shades of Don Giovanni both visually and musically); and Susanna's touching solo in the finale (the beautifully clear Joanna Boag: her Susanna-Almaviva duet with Thorpe was arguably the best-balanced ensemble of the evening: almost like listening to one voice at two pitches).

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Copyright © 29 January 2008 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK


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