Consortium Novum is not a new name on the Oxford music scene and after their successful production of Cosi Fan Tutti last year, it was no surprise that their production of The Marriage of Figaro sold out on all three nights in the New College Antichapel. The producers made good use of the space available, balancing the demand for seating with a full orchestra and a stage. The minimalist layout worked well with the space, a tall black cuboid in the middle acting as various props. Moreover, the clever staging of the opera as a modern office space made it more relatable to a modern audience. Through a few small changes to the 1930s translation, the script dealt with new issues such as feminism and class divide.
It was clear from the first aria that the director’s choice to pair Elspeth Piggot (Susannah) and George Robarts (Figaro) together was an excellent decision, their witty and often comic double act working well to reveal a couple young, classy, and capable of mischief . The high standard of music never faltered throughout the performance, an especially impressive feat with a cast of mainly undergraduates. Furthermore, the orchestra provided a strong accompaniment, always in time with the singers (a rarity in student productions!) with William Fox doing a fine job of conducting.
There is also something to be said for the excellent costume designs. The upturned collar and casual chinos of Basilio (Alexander Gebhard) contributed to the slimy nature of the character. Director Liz Jones’ ability to weave in clever nuances such as splitting the stage into good and evil characters during various important plot points kept the audience constantly engaged with their heads forever rotating side to side. This, combined with a modern comedic twist, made the entire performance particularly enjoyable, cementing Consortium Novum as one of Oxford Universities’ finest companies.