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The Marriage of Figaro at the ENO

By Mmeguillotine @MmeGuillotine


Despite having been dragged up by massive opera buffs, I’d never actually managed to see an actual real life opera. UNTIL NOW. Yes, that’s right, I can strike yet another thing off my frankly dispiriting and dolphin free bucket list. And it was probably the one thing on there that my poor long suffering husband was looking forward to the least as he’s not a fan of musical theatre, shall we say. Apparently the media studies students that he lived with at university made him watch Moulin Rouge on repeat and the experience traumatised him forever. So bad is his horror of musicals that we’ve had to temporarily abandon our Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon so that he can mentally limber up in readiness for the Musical Episode. We’re watching The X Files instead – hopefully there aren’t any episodes where Mulder and Scully start dueting but seriously anything is possible in those nineties shows. I blame David Lynch.

Our tickets came courtesy of the ENO and after deliberating between The Marriage of Figaro and La Bohème, we finally opted for the former as I thought it was probably the best bet for a pair of pathetic weakling opera virgins like myself and The Long Suffering Dave. Also, I thought there was more of a chance that we might actually recognize some of the tunes – not enough to sing along or anything, obviously, but maybe to do a bit of appreciative opera nodding along maybe? Although I’m now pretty sure that this would be considered a bit of an operatic faux pas so maybe not.

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Behold, my poor long suffering husband’s Opera Face/the Coliseum is reassuringly fancy inside.

Anyway, last weekend we got all togged up in what we considered to be suitably smart casual opera gear (I was persuaded out of wearing a tiara – the inherent danger of only ever experiencing opera via the medium of costume dramas is that you’ll end up massively over dressing) and headed to London for a bit of CULTURE. Sadly, we then got caught up in a bit of spiralling snare of transport woes and ended up getting to the Coliseum on St Martin’s Lane about five minutes after the opera had started.

Now, obviously they don’t let late comers in but it wasn’t like that really awkward bit in Spiderman II when Tobey Maguire isn’t allowed in to the theater and has to lurk about outside and it really upsets Mary Jane. No. Instead we got sent downstairs to The Holding Bay Of Shame, where we joined a group of several other latecomers to watch the opera on a small screen until the first interval when we would be allowed to actually go inside.


I thought this was pretty reasonable really, but the screen was very small and sound quality so bad that Dave didn’t actually realize that they were singing in English until about twenty minutes in. Oops. Anyway, shortly after this revelation, we were taken upstairs and allowed to find seats at the very top of the auditorium, which was much better.

Things improved even more after the interval, when we were able to go to our actual seats, which were in the stalls, near the royal box and with an amazing view of both the stage and also, to Dave’s immense joy, the text box above the action which acted as subtitles for the opera and which meant that he could finally follow what was happening.


I have to say that despite all the woe and drama and fuss attached to the evening, I actually really loved The Marriage of Figaro and even found myself sobbing big fat tears like a proper Opera Buff on a few occasions. Yes, I am apparently the sort of person who cries at opera. What a revelation to have about oneself so late in life.

It was seriously superb though – funny and touching and sweet and romantic with innovative eighteenth century costuming and a really intriguing and well thought out stage set to hold our interest and evoke the intricacies of the Count’s household with all their schemes and dramas and misunderstandings. Even Dave, the hater of all forms of musical theater seemed to enjoy himself and said afterwards that he was really starting to get into it by the end. Which, when you consider that I fully expected him to do a runner off to the branch of Five Guys up the road for a burger during the interval, was quite something.


Ultimately, The Marriage of Figaro was almost certainly the perfect choice for a first ever trip to the opera – familiar and light hearted enough not to be intimidating while at the same time fast moving and very entertaining. Of course opera isn’t for everyone (offers the fist bump of solidarity to Being Erica) but if you’re considering sticking your toe in then this would be a good place to start.

The ENO production of The Marriage of Figaro is running at the Coliseum until the 23rd of November.

Production stills: ENO/Robbie Jack.

Set against the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of autumn 1888 and based on the author’s own family history, From Whitechapel is a dark and sumptuous tale of bittersweet love, friendship, loss and redemption and is available NOW from Amazon UK, Amazon US and Burning Eye.

‘Frothy, light hearted, gorgeous. The perfect summer read.’ Minette, my young adult novel of 17th century posh doom and intrigue is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US and is CHEAP AS CHIPS as we like to say in dear old Blighty.

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