Although this is a review of the fourth night with the second cast, it must be said that, in this most popular of Mozarts comic operas, beloved both for the exquisite invention of the music and the humour of the action, even the second cast was superb. This is a conventional production not a hint of nudity anywhere and very welcome for that.

Sets and costumes are by Quirino Conti, whose background as architect and fashion designer shows everywhere. Social standing is respected, and in the opening scene Figaro and Susanna correctly get, as their future married quarters, the almost minimalist box room their position entitles them to, but when the action moves to the castles grander quarters, a restrained sumptuousness abounds, the interior adorned with lofty pilasters topped with gilded capitals, the exterior with all sorts of architectural conceits. Costumes are extremely lavish, even those of the chorus; thanks to the generosity of Taroni, the historic silk firm based in Como, there are acres of silk on view, in a range of the subtlest pastels.

Gigi Proietti, the popular and experienced Italian television and stage actor, is responsible for the production. He has the singers act with refinement and humour, almost without trace of hamming, while allowing the complex plot to develop with absolute clarity and absence of superfluous detail.

The conductor is Gianluigi Gelmetti; the very first notes of the overture promise that the evening will go well, every detail of the wonderful score being picked out with sharpness and usually at a spanking pace.

Figaro is the Argentine/Australian Jos Carbo, who has all the stage presence one could desire, together with a very fine baritone voice. The countess is the Ukrainian soprano Sofia Soloviy, who acts and sings with enormous grace and pathos, while Susanna, Cristina Baggio, sings and performs with endless humour. The count, Paolo Coni, is both convincing vocally and lecherous, and Giacinta Nicotra brings Cherubinos agonizing adolescent longings and confusion very much to life with her strong, rich voice. Bruno Pratic as Bartolo, Anna Rita Gemmabella as Marcellina, and Mario Bolognesi as Don Basilio are all very expert actor/singers.

Teatro dellOpera di Roma, Piazza Beniamino Gigli 1, Rome, tel. 06481601, www.opera.roma.it. Further performances 27, 28, 29 September 2005.

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