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