Press Release for Le Nozze di Figaro – December 2023


SUNDAY FEBRUARY 25, 2024, 2.30pm

After a dazzling and highly-lauded performance of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier earlier 2023, Saffron Opera Group now turns its attention to the comedy which provided a major source of inspiration for Strauss: Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Having already had huge success with Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni, SOG thus now completes the cycle of the of the three ‘Da Ponte Operas’ (so named after their librettist Lorenzo da Ponte) and is delighted to announce the return of many audience-favourite singers – and some shining new talents – to the cast.

The performance is also part of SOG’s joyous tenth anniversary celebrations, which will culminate later in 2024 with a return performance of their first ever project, Wagner’s Die Meistersinger.

Mozart’s 1786 opera (the title is usually translated as ‘The Marriage of Figaro’) tells the story of two wily servants, Figaro and Susanna, who must overcome the selfish machinations of their master Count Almaviva before they can be married. Helping and hindering them on their journey to wedded bliss are an assortment of colourful characters, including a randy young page boy, the Count’s unhappy wife, a frisky older woman who wants Figaro for herself, a Machiavellian singing teacher, and many others.

The roles of Figaro and Susanna are taken by bass-baritone Frederick Long and soprano Lucy Hall, both of whom have established themselves as firm favourites with Saffron audiences. The former was an outstanding Masetto in Don Giovanni, and the latter garnered superb praise as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier. Long’s career has included performances with all the major UK opera companies: ‘natural comic timing, paired with a lovely open, unforced tone,’ said The Arts Desk. For her performance as Sophie, Lucy Hall was praised for her ‘pure, sweet-toned voice’ by Seen and Heard International, and when she sang the lead role in Mozart’s La finta giardiniera in Luxembourg, Tageblatt was dazzled by her ‘crystal clear, beautifully produced and phrased soprano voice.’

Another alumna from SOG’s Der Rosenkavalier is soprano Ella de Jongh, who stood in at short notice to sing the role of the Marschallin, and who was universally applauded: ‘her Act 1 monologue was an emotional and psychological highlight…. vocally radiant’ said Seen and Heard. She takes on the pivotal role of Countess Almaviva, and joining her as her stage-husband Count Almaviva is the Latvian bass-baritone Pauls Putnins. He has already sung the role to great acclaim at Scottish Opera, and performed other major roles for Glyndebourne, ENO, Garsington and many houses in Europe and America.

Taking the role of the sex-obsessed page-boy Cherubino is young mezzo-soprano Emily Hodkinson. A recent graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Emily has already worked with Glyndebourne, Opera Holland Park, and English Touring opera.

Saffron Opera Group is thrilled to announce some luxury casting for several of the supporting roles. Fresh from her triumph as the Fairy Queen in ENO’s Iolanthe, mezzo Yvonne Howard takes on the role of Marcellina, an older woman claiming Figaro for herself. Internationally acclaimed bass-baritone Andrew Shore is Doctor Bartolo. He has performed the role many times for ENO – he appeared as the character as recently as December 2023 – and has also sung the conniving antagonist at Glyndebourne. Renowned character tenor Harry Nicoll is the weasely singing teacher Don Basilio.

Further supporting roles are taken by young singers Emily Vine (Barbarina), William Stevens (Antonio), Phil Clieve (Don Curzio), Charlotte Forfar (First Bridesmaid) and Rachael Liddell (Second Bridesmaid.)

The orchestra is conducted by SOG’s chief conductor Michael Thorne (‘at one with the spirit… and dramatic architecture of the work,’ Seen and Heard), who has successfully led all SOG’s previous performances with verve and passion.

Saffron Opera Group was founded by opera-loving Saffron Walden residents Paul Garland and Francis Lambert in 2013, and is now run by Lambert and Jeff Thomson. Its inaugural production was Wagner’s Die Meistersinger in 2014, and its ambitious concerts of The Ring Cycle, Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde and Tannhaüser have been among the most successful UK Wagnerian events of recent years.

Saffron Opera Group performs Le nozze di Figaro
Sunday 25 February, 2024

Saffron Hall
Audley End Road
Saffron Walden
CB11 4UH

Box Office
0845 548 7650


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