Met’s ‘Fi­garo’ a wed­ding you don’t want to miss

The Star Early Edition - - TONIGHT STAGE - PAUL BOEKKOOI

LET THE cham­pagne corks pop with un­lim­ited zest. This Met Opera pro­duc­tion of Mozart’s The Mar­riage of Fi­garo, is a once-in-al­ife­time opera ex­pe­ri­ence on all lev­els. You may have seen a num­ber of ex­cel­lent pro­duc­tions on DVD or even live in the past. Be thank­ful, but this is some­thing quite dif­fer­ent...

James Levine, Richard Eyre and Rob How­ell ex­pand the purview of comic opera from farce to some­thing like a world-the­atre. Here we find a the­atri­cal mi­cro­cosm whose rich set of images and im­pli­ca­tions are time­less and not bound by any na­tion­al­ity.

As Eyre, the di­rec­tor refers to in a filmed in­ter­view, Fi­garo was writ­ten just be­fore the French Revo­lu­tion, a tense pe­riod. He places it in the early 1930s, a sexy, el­e­gant and even some­what deca­dent time, but un­der­ly­ing this per­cep­tion there was also mount­ing dis­trust in that pe­riod in his­tory.

Both his and Levine’s vi­sion of the work is hon­estly in­di­vid­ual, clear in pro­file, and gen­uinely vi­tal. Al­ready in the over­ture the bub­bly pace makes the au­di­ence aware that they are alert to mu­si­cal-dra­matic sense and to the strong yet sub­tle mu­si­cal ar­gu­ments un­der­pin­ning the com­edy. Dur­ing the over­ture each of the main char­ac­ters act out a solo scene in dif­fer­ent spa­ces which float past as they are con­structed on a re­volv­ing stage.

Levine ra­di­ates the wis­dom of his decades of attendance on the score with­out slack­en­ing of his rhyth­mic grip or his de­mand for pre­ci­sion of ex­e­cu­tion. With per­fect choice of tem­pos, al­low­ing firm ar­tic­u­la­tion of note and text, it is never at the ex­pense of for­ward mo­men­tum. His com­mand of large in­tri­cate struc­tures is es­pe­cially ev­i­dent in the fi­nales to Acts 2 and 4.

Also part of Levine’s ge­nius is the way he welds a het­ero­ge­neous cast into a con­vinc­ing whole. In the name role, Il­dar Ab­draza­kov is po­tent and of­ten mer­cu­rial, with fa­cial ex­pres­sions chang­ing mood – nowhere more than in his fi­nal-act bit­ter­ness as he be­lieves Su­sanna un­faith­ful. His voice, a mel­low bari­tone, seems just right for the role and, among many other qual­i­ties, he dis­patches the recita­tives with id­iomatic il­lu­mi­na­tion.

Marlis Petersen’s Su­sanna is per­son­able, charm­ing, ebullient and highly ex­pres­sive in her face and body lan­guage. She sings ev­ery recita­tive, aria or en­sem­ble piece with enor­mous rel­ish, like in the aria she dresses Cheru­bino as a girl.

The young Is­abel Leonard in the lat­ter role jus­ti­fies her ac­cu­mu­lat­ing fame with a pal­pi­tat­ing, fresh-voiced ap­proach. Her Voi Che Sapete is filled with highly ex­pres­sive dra­matic beauty.

Amanda Ma­jeski does not have the most at­trac­tive voice on this stage, but on all other lev­els her Count­ess is for­mi­da­ble, catch­ing the noble and hu­mor­ous sides of her character. Both her arias are de­liv­ered with fault­less line, emo­tional truth and in­nate un­der­stand­ing of Mozart’s style.

Peter Mat­tei’s li­bidi­nous, dark­hued Count is another rounded per­son­al­ity, a head­strong master not to be tri­fled with. All the other roles are as bril­liantly cast – too many to men­tion.

This Fi­garo’s wed­ding is one you should at­tend. Just be on the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera’s guest list.

Ends Dec 4 in Cin­ema Nou­veaus and cer­tain Ster-Kinekor cin­e­mas.

Cheru­bino (Leonard) and Su­sanna (Petersen).

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