While many student opera companies content themselves with staging unknown, easier operas, this term St. Peter’s Music Society has undertaken a task far from humble. A fairly small ensemble of some graduated, some attending, some already professional singers make-up the cast and crew for their production of The Marriage of Figaro, to be performed in English in the second week of February.
Several of the singers are not currently performing on professional stages, but most of them are already equipped with a forceful vocal package. Peter Collins, who sings Figaro has studied under bass Robert Lloyd and American Soprano Barbara Bonney. His vocal gifts are enough to send him on a steady and secure career. George Coltart, who sings the Count, practices medicine as a junior doctor. If his knowledge and application of medicine equal the strength of his voice, he can be considered as one of the luckiest graduates in England. Lucy Cox, who sings Susanna, possesses a fine upper register, and it is impressive to think that first-year English student Johanna Harrison’s mezzo belongs to someone so young and with few years as yet of career experience.
The Marriage of Figaro is also conductor Theo Lester’s first time in conducting a Mozart opera. He worked with director Paola to adapt a number of translations of the libretto into their own, so the final translation is the work of the students – not of a CD leaflet libretto. He was assisted by Peter Stark, who is also conductor-in-residence for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
The set, though constructed in a chapel, is to be a canvas of twenty by twelve feet, with a four foot high platform as the stage. Luckily for St. Peter’s, the acoustics support the voices beautifully – probably outshining those of the Royal Opera in London and of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. Dr Roger Allen, director of music at the college, joins the cast to play the gardener, and bits of choreography have been interjected in the production to support the comedy and artifice. It looks set to be a momentous occasion.