"Humane, intelligent and buzzing with energy, Fiona Shaw’s new production of Mozart’s comedy – perhaps his greatest and certainly his most lovable opera – has much to recommend it."
Rupert Christiansen / The Telegraph / 6 October 2011
"Fiona Shaw's direction brings out the pace and pathos of Mozart and Da Ponte's masterly collaboration."
Colin Anderson / The Opera Critic / 10 October 2011
"a production full of thought and care."
Fiona Maddocks / The Observer / 9 October 2011
"As the orchestra belatedly tunes up, a blind Don Basilio taps his way to the harpsichord at the side of the stage. His clothes are recognisably 18th century, as is his instrument.
But the labyrinthine set beyond (by Peter McKintosh) is of no particular time or period, a flimsy abstraction of floated walls and doors, rooms within rooms, corridors within corridors, a kind of residential maze. Director Fiona Shaw then delivers her first chuckle of the evening, as Basilio traps an errant wasp inside his harpsichord and the "buzzy" strings of Paul Daniels's ENO orchestra begin the overture.
The pacing is properly brisk, with a crisply incisive period manner portending a frenetic 24 hours in the Almaviva household – and as the stage revolve springs into action, another dimension is added to the visuals as we traverse the rooms "below stairs", where staff are busily making ready for the day's events.
So Shaw has quickly and confidently nailed the age-old problem of lending a contemporary edge and relevance to the 18th century context."
Edward Seckerson / Independent / 10 October 2011
"Snorting and stamping, scratching his back with the bleached and polished horns of a bull, Count Almaviva is the Minotaur in Fiona Shaw's ENO production of The Marriage of Figaro.
Played out in a fast-revolving maze of staircases and corridors – its white-walled spaces now a laundry room, now a bakery, now the meat store, now a moonlit parterre – Mozart's opera becomes less a comedy of birthrights than a satire on masculinity. Bound by his word to renounce droit de seigneur, the Count faces emasculation at the hands of his servants and his wife. Bound by contract to marry Marcellina, and facing cuckoldry, Figaro is emasculated already.
Fey wit, heavy symbolism, earthy vulgarity and the creeping sourness of long-nurtured grievances collide to odd effect in Shaw's first Mozart staging. With a team of eight actors, she deftly choreographs the below-stairs industry of a vast estate, its brisk traffic echoed in the shadowy projections over designer Peter McKintosh's corrugated plastic labyrinth. The costumes are period, the trappings of indentured labour and aristocratic leisure spiked with later artefacts: a Super 8 camera for Cherubino, an early vacuum cleaner for Susanna. Oranges are arranged and removed, to remind us that we're in Spain, while the bulls' skulls and boar's carcass underline the notion of the Count as hunter and collector."
Anna Picard / Independent on Sunday / 9 October 2011
"Yet again actress Fiona Shaw brings sure theatricality to directing opera."
Alexander Campbell / Classical Source / 10 October 2011
"As one would expect Shaw casts a revealing and often merciless light on Mozart and Da Ponte’s richly complex characters. She often slants a scene in ways that forces the viewer to re-think their view of what is at play and she achieves this without betraying or distorting the work as a whole.
I did enjoy Shaw’s production because it was both revealing and faithful to the piece and for the fully rounded portrayals she elicited from a talented cast."
Sebastian Petit / Opera Britannia / 6 October 2011
"Fiona Shaw's new production of The Marriage of Figaro for the ENO focuses on the theme of entrapment. Her first victim? A noisy bee. Don Basilio finds himself so harassed by its buzzing, he confines it to the body of a harpsichord. Magically, a few seconds later, the low hum reappears - on strings and bassoons.
It's classic Shaw: a clever, symbolic, funny and possibly superfluous bit of theatrical punnery. She doesn't overdo the anomie. The political and class dimensions are but lightly touched upon.
It was a masterstroke. The intermittent, squally run-arounds - the dashing through servants quarters, kitchens, sculleries, past butchers blocks and clothes chests - was a lovely counterpart to the whirlwind orchestral accompaniment. If Shaw rather overloaded the place with dead bulls' skulls (hinting not so subtly at the possibility that this was a Casanova's graveyard), and lots of prosaic but no doubt meaningful projections, her ensemble work and eye for telling details more than made up for it."
Igor Toronyi-Lalic / The Arts Desk / 6 October 2011