It is a cold night in the Roxy—heating old churches with high roofs is difficult—but it is made bearable by the sheer fun and pleasure the young cast of Figaro give on their opening night. Edinburgh Studio Opera has expanded from the original student opera company, and while there are many current Edinburgh students in its cast and the orchestra, they also draw widely from young talent from Glasgow, Manchester and further afield, with a great result.
To begin with, the orchestra. It is 25 strong—a number Scottish Opera don’t often achieve for their touring productions—they play a great overture under their experienced conductor, William Conway, and give a solid musical backing throughout.
The production is in a Commedia dell’arte style, with actors dressing up at the beginning to sing their roles, and stripping off at the end to signify it was all just an opera. However, once in their costumes, they give their whole to their characters and to Mozart’s wonderful music. Naturally, this young cast and company can’t compete with the polished elegance of the recent Scottish Opera production of Figaro, and the singers do vary in their quality of voice and their acting (sometimes overacting) ability.
What they do do, is convey the essential political nature of the Beaumarchais play the opera is based on. Figaro is about class, status, power and sexuality, and is very political. Above all, they give life to Mozart’s wonderful music, which has delighted opera houses for over 200 years. Of course, they are young singers whose voices will get better with age and experience, but many of them already show great promise.
In particular, a good career is predicted for for Sarah Gilford, who sings Susanna, and her pure melodic voice is perhaps the best on stage. Her Figaro, Timothy Edmundson, is very solid in his singing and acting, as is the Count Almaviva of Jonathan Forbes Kennedy. The latter’s Countess, Jessica Conway, also has a very sweet voice. Some of the minor roles vary in their quality and their acting, but then that is true of most opera productions.
The chorus, dressed in black and painted like mime artists, have lots of “business” on stage, and give strong vocal support when needed. The minimal props used in the small stage of the Roxy, convey the fun of the opera.
Credit must be given to the big technical team behind the opera, from director Thomas Henderson, executive producer Flynn Le Brocq, and producer Grace Dickson downwards. Opera is the most demanding of all art forms and the most expensive, but when done well it is also the most complete art form. Figaro at the Roxy until Saturday, is a great introduction to this great art form, so do go and see it, but dress up warm!