Mozart : Las Bodas de Figaro (Nozze di Figaro)Glyndebourne, 2012 (Video)
Director: Robin Ticciati
Archivos para descarga:
Figaro Vito Priante
Susanna Lydia Teuscher
Countess Sally Matthews
Count Audun Iversen
Bartolo Andrew Shore
Marcellina Ann Murray
Cherubino Isabel Leonard
Don Basilio Alan Oke
Antonio Nicholas Folwell
Don Curzio Colin Judson
Barbarina Sarah Shafer
Putting Figaro in the Alhambra is cool - despite its setting being clearly set out in Da Ponte's libretto, Spanish references in productions of this opera are usually few and far between, so it's nice to bring out this element for a change. But here it changed nothing about the presentation of the action or the drama, and in the end this was as traditional a production as I have ever seen. Why bother making the Islamic reference if you're not going to follow up on it?* Just to look pretty?
Even more pointless was setting it in the early 70s - this creates problems because the whole plot centres around avoidance of the Almavida's Feudal right (and no attempt was made to address this anachronism), but added nothing in terms of casting the drama in a new light. My instant thought was that if they'd made it a commune (all the rage at that time), with Almaviva as the head honcho, he may well have had a "right" to the women in the commune, and he'd still be a figure of (abusive) power. Also, the Count cannot be a truly threatening character due only to his status in the 70s because there were of course by that time severe limitations on his power and what he could do to his servants. For there to be a real sense of dread he'd simply have to be a physically or psychologically threatening man (which he wasn't at all here) but then this would render certain character's actions inexplicable without some further serious character regie. I don't like when things are just glossed over. I've seen reviewers suggest that this weakening of the Count is a strength of the production (e.g. Rupert Christiansen of all people!) - it's not, it undermines the drama.
I missed too the painful edge of this opera, the bitter tang of every trick which rebounds and causes almost as much suffering on the trick player as the victim. This idea is taken up by Da Ponte less subtly in Cosi Fan Tutte, and in fact becomes the central thrust of the drama, but in Figaro it's just one of a number of important interlocking elements. Itis of course also so beautifully encapsulated in Mozart's music that it's impossible to ignore; when it is, as here, the whole things falls flat and ends up being rather bland - nothing more than non threatening buffoonery, japes and mild humour. Of course there were roars of laughter every time people danced in a 70s style to Mozart's music. People are so very easily pleased.
As to Christopher Oram's sets - I have to say that though very detailed, I thought lots of the scenery was rather crudely rendered and far less beautiful than actual examples of Islamic architecture and ceramics of this period. One big problem was that both the window and the main door of the the Countess' bedroom were deeply recessed into the right hand wall and so key points of the action in Act 2 (Cherbino's jump, and the locking of the doors) were invisible to half the audience. So unecessary.
The cast were very young, each debuing their role as far as I can tell, and though youth is entirely appropriate in this piece, their inexperience showed. Michael Grandag 's direction, which is detailed but quite unspecific, rendered characters generic and largely uninteresting, with emotional content relegated to the background, and larger dramatic arches left undernourished. But more experienced singers can often transcend an indifferent production and at least effect something special in their own parts. Overall I found it hard to feel too much for any of the characters.
Sally Matthew's Countess was vocally by some distance the most impressive cast member, but due to the production seemed short of genuine pathos, and so failed to move the heart. The costumes saw to it that she couldn't be elegant or graceful, but I'm not sure the voice is quite right either for capturing this character's poise, warmth or softness. A few months ago I wrote about her voice as it sounded close up in the Wigmore Hall, and my impression wasn't all that different here - it's superbly produced, extremely even, technically very secure, but also extremely covered which gives it a shiny, but rather dark and steely unfeminine edge. The top gleams, but it's laser like rather than crystalline. I love her Fiordiligi here and here and I think it's probably a much more interesting role for her.
Lydia Teuscher's Susanna was quite nice, but in voice types this common one can afford to be very picky, and she offerend nothing truly distinctive. I thought she was occasionally quite hoarse in the upper register too. Vito Priante's Figaro was also decently sung but overall slightly bland. Audun Iversen's Count Almaviva was more interesting vocally, but had too many comedy double takes (which the crowd ate up) to be credible. Isabel Leonard made a decent Cherubino, nicely sung, but again failed to be very memorable. All the supporting roles were adequately taken (except for Ann Murray's Marcellina who was far more than adequate - such a natural presence on stage, and still far more than acceptable vocally).
Robin Ticciati was in the pit and all eyes are surely on him at the moment since he was announced last season as Glyndebourne's next music director, succeeding Jurowski in 2014 (with a rumoured Rosenkavalier, another Glyndebourne classic). I was absolutely enthralled by his Don Giovanni last season with the OAE which was full blooded, ultra detailed and thrillingly intense. His Figaro was also very good, sensittively played and carefully thought out, but it felt a bit too much like the production: all a bit subdued and soft, lacking piquancy and bite. Still he's profoundly musical and has excellent rapor with his musicians who manage to play superbly apparently in spite of his almost obstinate lack of clear beat. He's so young too - I have no fears whatsoever about his take over (though at the moment Jurowski seems quite determined to make us regret that he's going with superlative performances every time.)
Perhaps surprisingly, this Figaro is a co production with the Met, a much larger stage, so presumably the sets will all have to be rebuilt for then. Hopefully they'll hire some experts in Islamic art, improve the look of it, and iron out some of the set's problems. Although it is an updating that will no doubt receieve some grumbles when it crosses the pond, there is nothing here at all to challenge the arch conservative Met audience intellectually, morally or emotionally.
(Edited from the blog Capriccio Music)
It’s the age of long hair and raging hormones, wide lapels and wider collars, the age of new found “permissiveness” where the world and his dog are gagging for some extra-curricular congress and the great and good are headed for their lavish Spanish villas with or without the wife.
We’re outside just such a villa as Mozart’s busy overture strikes up but it’s not until the Count and Countess Almaviva roll up in their red Bugatti that we know for certain that director Michael Grandage has fast-forwarded a couple of centuries and that this is most definitely not an 18th century Figaro.
But hang on a minute - doesn’t the key plot device have something and everything to do with the Count’s “Feudal Rights”? Is Grandage proposing that we buy into the idea that the Count has somehow hung on to this the ultimate class-defining act of chauvinism for a couple of centuries? Or is it now just a label of convenience for those like the Count who can? If wealth alone defined class then Grandage and his designer Christopher Oram would be right on the money, so to speak, because this Moorish villa with all its mosaics and fine carvings is spectacular and then some, each prospect, each room, progressively grander.
So it looks great and for the most part sounds great with some delectable work from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Glyndebourne’s music director in waiting, Robin Ticciati, and a cast of some undeniable vocal distinction. But something is missing here, something easy to recognise but harder to define: pace. Certainly (the great second act finale seriously lacks momentum), but more importantly a deftness of touch relying less on over-earnest pointing and more on an effortless sense of style. For all Grandage’s “truthfulness” a heaviness pervades.
I totally buy into Audun Iversen’s strenuously randy Count and his puppy dog remorse but far from dominating the proceedings Vito Priante’s lithe silky-haired Figaro feels oddly “incidental”. Not so any of the women. Lydia Teuscher’s delightful Susanna finds real vocal kinship (not least in their ravishing third act duet) with Sally Matthews’ classy Countess - lovely singing but somewhat occluded words in the arias. Isabel Leonard’s spirited Cherubino (a kind of cross-gender Sporty Spice) hits the spot and the double act of Ann Murray’s bird-like Marcellina and Andrew Shore’s explosive Bartolo is treasurable.
Odd to see the wedding party “twisting” to period instruments. But that’s opera for you.