Message from Prof Phil Grange


Wow! What an utterly superb performance of The Marriage of Figaro last night.  The singing from both soloists and chorus was superb, and the wonderfully clear diction allowed us to hear every word. The acting was spot on, and the fact that you got so many laughs from the audience when it was appropriate is testament to a very well developed sense of timing.  The orchestral support was everything it needed to be, and the conductors should be congratulated on fantastic direction and control throughout.  The production was also superb; clearly a huge amount of consideration had been given to every detail, from set design and props to costumes and lighting.  Finally, the direction and choreography involved in placing the singers in the best possible positions on stage was done with consummate skill.

All the staff who attended were seriously impressed by the professionalism, commitment and enthusiasm of all those involved in last night’s production, both on the stage and back stage.  Indeed, I have had an email from every one of them saying that they wish to indicate how stupendous they thought it was, and also one from Rebecca saying how delighted she is that it was such a success and how disappointed she is not be able to see it.

You have every reason to be extremely proud of what you have achieved; we are certainly proud of what you have done.  Last night was a phenomenal landmark in the history of achievements in the Music Department at Manchester University – many, many congratulations!

Phil Grange

Interview with Luke Mather (Antonio)


Who’s your character, Antonio, and what is he like?

Antonio is a misunderstood gardener who has a love of flowers. He also likes to enjoy a glass of wine or three whilst on the job.  Whilst researching my character I found some interesting information… According to one source, Mozart had originally written an aria for Antonio titled ‘Dove Sono I Flori’, in which he laments lost meetings with flowers due to the Count’s cuts to the gardening budget.  However, the aria caused too many cases of depression and insanity in the first few audiences because they connected with Antonio’s situation too well due to the economic climate of the time.  Because of this, Mozart converted the aria into the popular ‘Dove Sono’ sung by the Countess.


Do you have a favourite scene in the show?

It’s probably the whole of the Act 2 Finale.  The music builds up so well, and there’s so much lying, outwitting and madness with all the characters: many emotions in a short space of time!  The final moments of the opera are great too, it’s wonderful when all eleven of the principal characters are singing in full voice.

What are some of the challenges or unusual benefits involved in this production?

This has been the first time I’ve had to sing recitative at all so I’ve learnt a lot about how it works and how it fits into an Opera.  The blocking of this production has been squished into just two weeks and it’s been great to see it all come together in such a small space of time.  This has asked a lot of all of us, but the long hours we’ve put in are beginning to pay off and I can’t wait for the opening night!

Why should I come and see Figaro?

MUMS Marriage of Figaro has some great singers and musicians, it’s also hilarious!  It’s in English too so you will be able to follow the whole story quite easily, and on a final note, if you’re lucky, we will take inspiration for my character’s first entrance from this video… (starting at 0:40)

The Producers


Some thoughts by Producer, Tom Guyer, on his work producing Figaro:

Wow, what a start to the new year! It’s been incredibly busy over in the producers corner what with all our world class door painting and paint making, not to mention how amazing we look in overalls… but seriously: things are finally coming together!  I’ve sat in on numerous rehearsals and the quality is outstanding; everybody coming to this production is in for a treat.

I have been working closely with Joel, the director, helping create the set of his dreams… preventing it from being a nightmare.  To help me with this workload is Seb Marshall, without whom I’d be utterly screwed!  Much preparation, which goes unseen, has gone into this production so I will take this opportunity to share some of my ‘Producer Highlights’:

  • I never thought that waiting for money to be transferred would be so exciting! Especially when it puts you a week behind schedule and keeps you, and the music society treasurer, on edge for a number of days.
  • Casually walking 29 meters of fabric over my shoulder to the Martin Harris Centre has definitely put me on the right track to fatherhood. I’m going to miss that fabric.
  • The magical trip with Joel to the world of Howorth Wrightson to find props…and just about anything else you can think of!


However, none of these live up to working with my fellow producer; my other half.  I shall never forget our beautiful, Manchester-grey, Saturday afternoon mixing paint with an electric whisk, painting doors and taking nice, elegant, long walks to and from ScrewFix…  I’m sure there will be more to report back from in the week leading up to opening night.

It’s been a tough few weeks but it’s been incredibly rewarding and I feel privileged to be working with such fantastic young professionals.  So come and laugh, cry and laugh some more at this 18th Century sitcom.

Finally, when you’re sat in your seat, spare a thought for the producers! You’ll probably not see us during the show but almost certainly in the pub. You can thank us then…

I look forward to seeing as many familiar faces as possible!

Interview with Jack Sheen, Conductor (Acts 3+4)


Why should I come and see Figaro?

It’s brilliant music, it’s genuine comedy and the musical and dramatic efforts of the cast, musicians and creative team will be amazing!

Have you got a favourite scene?

All of the finales are amazing to watch and listen to. They’re complex and quick paced, and contain some of the best musical moments in opera. Perhaps it’s just because I know it so well and that it concludes the show, but I’d say the the final scenes are my favourite. The way it concisely wraps up the opera’s little plots encompassing all of the characters is masterful and no easy task!


How’s the production going?

Putting on any opera is a difficult task. Putting on Mozart’s The Marriage Of Figaro in around six weeks with a cast and creative team consisting entirely of students who are studying alongside the production is an extremely difficult task! Considering all of that, it is going extremely well. With just over a week left to go the opera is in an extremely good place both musically and dramatically. The cast and creative team have put in an incredible amount of effort and it’s really paid off. The nature of the beast – the opera’s length, difficulty, popularity and brilliance – has enthused us all to levels I’ve never experienced before when working on these sort of projects, and that enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism is sure to result in two fantastic performances.

What’s your favourite music in this opera?

Again, the finales are musically amazing in how they build up and up whilst containing such a great variety of material and drama. However, I’m a real sucker for the Count’s recitative and aria towards the beginning of act III. The music seems to perfectly match his confusion and rising anger, whilst also implying a sense of slapstick villainy which the Count represents.

Interview with Kerry Firth, The Countess


What draws you to the role of the Countess?

There are actually many things that draw me to this character, but what I find particularly compelling is the emotional roller coaster she rides throughout the show.  When we first see her, she is in complete and utter despair because her husband no longer loves her, and is after half of the women servants in the castle, and she pleads with the heavens for his affections towards her to be restored.  As the opera progresses, though, we see her feisty side, as she attempts to assert some dominance over her husband: she is not as easy to walk over as he might think.  She also has a so-called ‘wild side’ and quite a wicked sense of humour, which we see when she is planning her revenge with Susanna.  Ultimately, however, I think she longs to return to the days when her relationship with the count was new and exciting, which she recalls so poignantly in her aria Dove Sono.  I am really looking forward to communicating this collage of emotions to the audience both through the  music and the ways in which I sing it.


Are there any specific scenes in Figaro that you’re particularly looking forward to?

Well…that’s difficult because I do honestly love it all, but I think I particularly enjoy my scenes with Rob Brooks, who is playing the Count.  I really like performing our duet, which really sees the countess going through all these different emotions so quickly.  Also, I’m not going to lie, I do enjoy the scenes where I get to order people around, and  assert my position as countess!  Finally, I do love the act IV finale, where everything just descends into utter confusion.

What excites you most about being in Figaro?

That’s easy! I love being able to work with such an amazing group of people.  The cast are just great, and throw everything into their characters.  They’re so fun and friendly too, which I think really helps things to come together.  I also love being able to work with Joel the director, and Ollie and Jack the conductors, all of whom aren’t afraid to push me to my limits….it’s just brilliant!  Before Christmas, I admit I was sort of terrified of half of the things they were expecting of me, but now I feel completely at ease.  I could go on, but you won’t truly understand what I’m talking about unless you come and see the show, which you must must must do!!

Blocking Week 1



Here’s the newly created event banner for our production:


So far there’s a large following on the facebook event:

We’ve finished this week’s blocking rehearsals, having covered 3/4 of the Opera.  No fewer than 2 orchestral rehearsals and 25 hours of blocking took place just last week.  Tomorrow’s an important day where we put the principals together with the orchestra for the first time in Sitzprobe No. 1 (of 4).   We start with Act II, including the epic 26 min finale…

Marriage of Figaro

Monday 16th – Postlude Rehearsals


Having had so much fun these past 4 weeks, we’re lucky to be able to find some time this afternoon  to rehearse even more together 🙂

Edwin (Bartalo) and Aimee (Marcellina) will look at their solo arias and recitative together, Rosalie (Cherubino) will run through her famous arias, as will Kerry (Countess), and together with Rob (Count) we’ll work on the movements the Count and Countess spend time together.  All in all, a welcome extra 4 hours to look at some of the most beautiful moments in the opera!  Bartalo’s aria is especially funny – imagine this video but translated into English:

Also today we found out that the University TV society, Fuse TV, will be making a documentary about our production in the new year… more info to follow!

Fuse TV

Week 4 Rehearsals Complete


We’ve had a JAM-PACKED week!

The ORCHESTRA have met for the first time! In fact they’ve met for three rehearsals this week, in order to quickly sight-reading through the complete opera.  It’s sounding great, we’re moving quickly & they players seem to love it!

As per usual, the cast and principals have been busy with 18 other rehearsals this week(!)  In addition to these, our director – Joel – ran a workshop on recitative last Tuesday which was particularly useful, memorable (and silly!).  We ended the evening with the principals improvising recitative in character in groups of two or more.  There was something of ‘epic rap battles of history’ about the whole idea, and the situations created were priceless.

Other things this week to keep us busy have been:

  • MUMS Festive Concert (where Joe, Jack and Ollie merrily conducted the Symphony Orchestra and Cosmo Singers in Rodney Bennett, Handel and Hindemith)
  • Come and Sing: Messiah (led by Rob [who is playing the Count], who navigated the epic score stylishly)
  • Carols in Bridgewater Hall with the Mozart Festival Orchestra (five from the production were invited to sing with Canzonetta Choir).

Today’s rehearsals took place at my house because the department was shut for the day:Image

All in all a lovely end to a tiring and busy term – we’re all arriving back in Manchester a week before term recommences to start blocking rehearsals before the exam period; Jack, Rob, Luke and I wish you a very happy and peaceful holiday!!!

Opera Guides on SinfoniMusic


Check out this interesting insightful website SINFINI music have created about opera!

It includes:

  1. How to go to an opera – what they all do, how to behave, where to go and what to see!
  2. Opera: Top 10 on record – Which are the greatest recordings of all time?
  3. Find your taste through 30 operas – Comedy, romance, magic, horror, big-tunes? Discover 30 here.

The Marriage of Figaro, comes under the Bedroom Farce category and is summed up as: high farce meets human frailty and the quest for love!  Other Bedroom Farces include Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love and the prequel to The Marriage of Figaro: The Barber of Seville, by Rossini.

Week 3 Rehearsals Complete


It’s been a manic week for Figaro in Manchester!  We’ve survived 22 rehearsals almost unscathed, however Rachel (Susanna) has a throat infection, but for this time of the year we’ve been very lucky!

Last Tuesday (3rd) rehearsals ran almost non-stop from 10am-6pm, the commitment has been brilliant.  Also, without booking rooms in advance, we’ve been lucky enough to always find spaces to rehearse.

For me, the highlight so far has been rehearsing with Kerry Firth, who’s playing the Countess, working on her two arias.  Especially as ‘Dove sono’ is such beautifully well-crafted drama.  Here’s the gorgeous Renee Fleming singing the same number:

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