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Mozart - Le nozze di Figaro

Figaro (Erwin Schrott)
Susanna (Miah Persson)
Count Almaviva (Gerald Finley)
Countess (Dorothea Röschmann)
Bartolo (Jonathan Veira)
Marcellina (Craciela Araya)
Cherubino (Rinat Shaham
Barbarina (Ana James)
Antonio (Jeremy White)
Don Curzio (Francis Egerton)

The Royal Opera House Chorus & Orchestra/Antonio Pappano

David McVicar (Stage Director)

Opus Arte: DVD OA0990D [Filmed 2006, 184 Mins]

Our review of this Royal Opera, Covent Garden production when new is appended below (it has thrived in a revival under Sir Colin Davis).

On DVD (high quality filming with close close-ups which often belie its creation for a large opera house) there are problems; no moments of visual repose from the beginning of the overture and through all the arias. Eyes dominating ears, as is now the way.

All the characters are kept continually on the move with clever, witty little ideas imposed by the ever resourceful McVicar. In the last Act, in contrast with most productions, there was no sense of a garden as we know them, too much light so no mystery and confusion in the dark as anticipated.

The third Act was, for me, the crown of the whole opera, unusually so. It was beautifully paced and integrated, with the Padre/Madre sextet managed unsurpassably. Is there a better & funnier composition in all music?

I was less taken with the prominence of the large contingent of servants and the convention that they could avoid hearing everything going on was hard to take; there was no privacy to express emotions and conflict; well, the ROH is a big place for tackling domestic problems...

Readers might like to explore the numerous reviews of this production and its revival conveniently gathered on The Opera Critic; free temporary membership available.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Mozart Le nozze di Figaro
Royal Opera House – 22 February 2006
Conductor – David Syrus

Director: David McVicar
Designs: Tanya McCallin
Lighting: Paule Constable
Choreography: Leah Hausmann

[Cast as above]

New productions of repertoire operas such as Le nozze di Figaro are relatively few and far between. The last one ROH commissioned for it's own theatre appeared in 1987, and was given a number of revivals. It looks as though David McVicar's new staging is also in for the long haul.

He has shifted da Ponte's plot from 18 th century Seville to provincial France in around1830. The curtain rises before we hear a single note of music. A solitary servant is washing a vast area of floor. As the familiar overture is played more servants join in, carrying fresh linen for the bedrooms and food for the kitchen - smoothly the stage machinery slides across to reveal the room allotted to Figaro and Susanna. It's a pretty cramped store room, and leaves plenty of room on the stage for the servants to eavesdrop and gossip at the door.

Tanya McCallin's fine sets positively exhale the air of a French country chateau and the allusion is reinforced by a group of a dozen actors who portray the ever present housekeeper and servants. On the periphery of the action, they sketch out a canvas on which individual principal singers can make their mark, to keep the production looking fresh for many years to come.

The present cast is an interesting one. Erwin Schrott, Miah Persson and Rinat Shaham make their ROH role debut's as Figaro, Susanna and Cherubino, all singing well, but their character interpretations still have room to mature.

Gerald Finley and Dorothea Roschmann are also seen in new guises. Finley cuts a commanding figure as Count Almaviva, and gives an in-depth portrayal of this complex personality. For Hai già vinta la causa! ... Vedrò mentr'io sospiro he sits moodily toying with a beautifully reproduced period scientific contraption. As his Countess, Roschmann also does well. She gives a very sympathetic portrayal of a woman at a turning point where marital happiness is beginning to escape her, and I have never heard Dove sono sung better.

There are also outstanding cameo performances by two old stagers adding new roles to their already extensive repertoires: Philip Langridge as a Quentin Crisp-like Basilio, giving a cruelly ironic performance of his Act 4 aria In quegli anni, his grotesque wig representing the ass's skin, and Francis Egerton as Don Curzio, commanding the stage as soon as he sets foot upon it.

The whole evening was enhanced by David Syrus's adroit conducting. The Royal Opera's Head of Music since 1993, he has been deeply involved in the musical preparation of this (and many other) productions, and clearly revels in every note of it. Mark Packwood's harpsichord continuo is also worthy of note.

Serena Fenwick

Photos of Figaro & Susanna and of the Garden Scene: Bill Cooper