Wit and wile combine in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro at The Lowry

Opera North's Marriage of Figaro (c) Guy Farrow

Opera North's Marriage of Figaro (c) Guy Farrow - Credit: Archant

Featuring some of the most recognisable music in opera, Opera North’s hit production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to The Lowry this March.

Ana Maria Labin as Countess Almaviva (c) Clive Barda

Ana Maria Labin as Countess Almaviva (c) Clive Barda - Credit: Archant

Mozart's joyous farce sees the valet Figaro and Susanna, his bride-to-be, ably outwitting everyone around them during a series of mishaps, mistaken identities and misunderstandings. Both New Zealand baritone Phillip Rhodes and Welsh soprano Fflur Wyn will be making their role debuts as the quick-witted servants.

Fflur previously tackled the part of Susanna when she was a student, but this production will be her first time performing the opera in full. She has been surprised at how much energy it requires, "It's the second longest role ever written in terms of time on stage and Susanna's so busy during the entire piece. She never has any time to sit down and think about things. So, for me, it's been about building up stamina vocally, mentally and physically."

Helen Sherman as Cherubino (c) Clive Barda

Helen Sherman as Cherubino (c) Clive Barda - Credit: Archant

"It's very similar for me," Phillip concurs. "I don't think I've ever played a role before where all the action takes place over the course of a day - in fact, Figaro's wedding day. It means everything's very fast-paced and you only have a short period of time to show off his entire character."

Figaro spends the day trying to prevent Count Almaviva, his master, from bedding Susanna, while also figuring out how to repay a debt to the housekeeper Marcellina to avoid having to marry her instead. Luckily for him, Susanna is more than capable of looking after herself. "I love this production's characterisation of Susanna," enthuses Fflur. "She's very clever and very feisty. Not like your typical Mozart maid at all! She's very much her own personality which makes it far more interesting in my opinion. I absolutely love playing her."

Jo Davies, who recently directed Gypsy at the Royal Exchange, has moved the action to pre-revolutionary Russia when the lower classes were beginning to gain the upper hand over the aristocracy. To complement this, the set designer Leslie Travers has given everything a fin-de-siècle feel with wallpaper peeling off the walls in the Count and Countess' villa and rain pouring down the windows.

Fflur believes that this take on power and class structures will resonate with today's audiences thanks to programmes like Downton Abbey where "…there's a bit of blending between the roles of upstairs and downstairs, just the same as we've got here."

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There is also plenty of amazing music which may well sound familiar. The 'letter duet' was famously used in The Shawshank Redemption and, adds Phillip, "The overture, which is one of the most beautiful pieces of classical music, has been made famous by Bugs Bunny!"

With its engaging storyline, fast-paced action and Mozart's outstanding ability to move between comedy and pathos in a moment, The Marriage of Figaro is a perfect choice for anyone who has never tried opera before - and a Try it ON scheme is available at The Lowry offering first time attendees £20 tickets for any performance. The production will also be sung in English so there is no language barrier. For the singers, reveals Phillip, this brings an unexpected benefit: "It makes it so much easier to get the comic timing correct when everyone laughs at the right time, rather than dealing with the delay that reading surtitles inevitably causes. You really feel the audience are with you."

Fflur agrees, "It's just enjoyment, pure enjoyment!"

The Marriage of Figaro is being performed as part of Opera North's upcoming season at The Lowry which also includes a new production of Kurt Weill's heart-wrenching Street Scene and a revival of Britten's spooky masterpiece, The Turn of the Screw.

Performance Dates at The Lowry

Box Office: 0343 208 6000 or thelowry.com

Tue 10 Mar - 7.00pm - The Marriage of Figaro

Wed 11 Mar - 7.30pm - The Turn of the Screw

Thu 12 Mar - 7.00pm - The Marriage of Figaro (audio-described)

Fri 13 Mar - 7.00pm - Street Scene (captioned)

Sat 14 Mar - 7.00pm - The Marriage of Figaro

Twitter: @Opera_North @The_Lowry