Monday, February 8, 2021

LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (Wiener Staatsoper)*****


By Louise


Available until: There is another broadcast on 11th February at 6pm (probably 5pm in the UK) but I didn’t watch it live so it’s available for at least a while after broadcast.

Note: The subtitles are automatically set to German, but they are also available in English and Italian.

Le nozze di Figaro is probably my favourite opera. The music is really beautiful, the story is really good and the characters are great so it is quite difficult not to enjoy Figaro, but every so often you see a production that is really really special. This is one of them.

Alba (another blogger) would be very cross if she saw this because there is no social distancing and no masks, but this is not a UK production. Different countries have their own rules and their own ways of keeping their performers safe. I’m sure the Wiener Staatsoper are keeping to their rules. But it is a shame the UK can’t do what Austria are doing as it obviously is working.

I am quite confused about who to credit in this production as the credits say one thing and Operabase says something else. I am going to go with what it says in the stream. If I’ve made any mistakes, it’s my fault.

Philippe Jordan’s conducting is wonderful. He really brings out the beauty of the music and he supports the singers well and allows them to be brilliant. Often, when I watch Figaro, I’m thinking at the end how great the story is and how funny it is. This time, I was thinking even more than usual of the beautiful score and how varied it is and the emotions of the characters. It was also lovely to see the orchestra clapping the cast at the end.

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle is credited with creating the staging and the set. The indoor sets look really ornate. The pine grove in Act 4 is my favourite set because it’s so beautiful. It also has lots of hiding places for the characters and the set never gets in the way or makes things inconvenient for the singers.

This production is more serious than a lot of Figaros. It concentrates a lot on the emotions of the characters. Figaro and Susanna are understandably stressed with planning a wedding. The Countess thinks the Count doesn’t love her anymore. The Count is really regretting his decision to change the law so he can’t ‘go on a date’ with Susanna before her wedding. Cherubino is a teenage boy so he is obviously full of hormones. Marcellina knows she really loves Figaro and wants him to be in her life and there’s also the tragedy in her past. It is really difficult for all of them.

I always felt like I’d be a bit disappointed by a Figaro that didn’t concentrate so strongly on the humour, but I absolutely loved this production and all the emotions it made me feel.

Louise Alder and Philippe Sly are wonderful as Susanna and Figaro. Ms Alder has a beautiful soprano voice and she shows all the sides to Susanna’s personality really well. She is playful when she’s dressing Cherubino up, romantic when she’s thinking about her future being married to Figaro, kind to the Countess and Cherubino, and very intelligent when she’s making her own plans or sorting out other people’s messes. She is one of the best Susannas I have ever seen.

Mr Sly is equally good as Figaro. He has a lovely rich bass-baritone voice which adapts really well to all the different styles Figaro has to sing in. His arias can be playful or angry, but he also has flirtatious and romantic moments with Susanna as well as some really thoughtful lyrical moments. Mr Sly is also a really good actor who can show how complex Figaro’s character is. But maybe the best thing of all about this Figaro and Susanna is that they are such a wonderful couple with a great onstage connection. I really believe in them.

The Count and Countess’ relationship has a bit more awkwardness, but that felt totally right too because they are a couple who have kind of lost sight of each other a little bit. Federica Lombardi makes the Countess’ arias really sad, but she gives them a lot of dignity too. Even though she has every reason to moan, she never does. Her voice is really stunning and she shows that the Countess is a generous and kind person (and the Count is really lucky).

The Count could come across quite badly and André Schuen’s Count definitely behaves badly (or tries to), but there is a sense of unhappiness underneath his performance, like he’s realised his marriage is going through a bad patch and he’s got totally the wrong idea that he will be happy if he brings some happiness in from outside the marriage instead of trying to sort things out with the Countess. Mr Schuen has a great voice and a commanding presence, but I think there’s sadness there too.

Virginie Verrez is a really sweet and likeable Cherubino and the different emotions she gives him really work with the way Cherubino describes himself in his first aria. Stephanie Houtzeel is a bit scary at first as Marcellina, but once she is given a new role in life, she really embraces it and she’s good at it. I wish she could have sung her aria. I think Ms Houtzeel would have brought the meaning across really well. Evgeny Solodovkinov sings Bartolo’s aria really gorgeously and I love how he shows his character’s emotions.

This is a really lovely production and I am so excited about Wiener Staatsoper’s other operas which will be broadcast this week.

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