Le Nozze di Figaro

by Geraldine Curtis (Mad Musings of Me)

«It is my favourite opera of all, and has only gone up in my estimation as a result of this performance. Although it and the play it was based on were written in the 1780s, it was updated to the 1820s, and I know that because it said so in the newspapers. I didn’t read the programme notes beforehand (except for looking at the pictures) and as I’m not an expert in the subtle differences in interior and clothing design, I would not have known, nor cared. And I don’t think it made one iota of difference.

Overall, I thought that the orchestral playing, the singing, the character depiction, the sets and the production were separately and together, first rate. My main criticism would be the interpolation of Bach’s Toccata and a loud “hello” into the beginning of Voi che sapete. People who not only let their mobiles ring, but answer them “I’m in the opera” should be forcibly ejected from the auditorium and barred for a year. A second offence would involve stocks and pillories. When practically the entire amphitheatre is saying “shush”, there is, in my view, an argument for restarting the intro to the aria.

One of my reasons for liking it is that however many times I see or hear it, I find something new in the story or music or both. However good the principals were, and they were, one of the best touches was the servants listening in at the door to all the intrigues.

Many parts of it were very funny, especially the almost farcical quality of the two scenes where Cherubino is hiding first in Susanna’s bedroom, and then in the Countess’s bedroom. And the Final Act, in the garden, when it seems that half the cast are running around trying to hide from each other. There were excellent bits all the way through; of course, the director must get a large part of credit for this, but there would be little point in planning clever moves without intelligent acting-singers to act them out.

The cast was of a very high standard. As soon as the ROH announced the new season last Spring, and I saw Nozze di Figaro, my heart beat a little faster, and when I saw “Gerald Finley” as the Count it beat even faster (and I’ve become an even bigger fan of his since last Spring!). I hadn’t heard any of the rest of the principals, and, in some cases, hadn’t even heard of them. And then when smaller parts are taken by the likes of Philip Langridge, who is, presumably winding down his career in style, you know that’s luxury casting…!

I thought Gerald Finley was marvellous; everytime I see him I like him even more. He has a gorgeous voice, and a wonderful stage presence. He played the Count as one could imagine Timothy West playing him, and was very funny. Quite frighteningly physical at times.

Miah Persson was outstanding as Susanna and she with the lovely Erwin Schrott as Figaro had me convinced that they were a couple in love, which doesn’t always come across in every production. I had read that Erwin took the recitative secco as spoken narrative, and, I have to say, reading about it, I was not sure. And indeed, in the first excerpt, I was still not sure. But then I began to realise, it really worked. And Erwin is most definitely a voice I would like to hear again, with an excellent stage presence (the internet says he’s due to play Don Giovanni at Covent Garden in the future).

I thought Dorothea Röschmann was good as the Countess, although I will say that I am not a great soprano fan and there were some parts of her voice, especially up at the top that were not especially to my liking. I think Rinat Shaham was a fine Cherubino.

I’m trying to work out which was my favourite bit musically. There are so many great arias, duets, and ensemble pieces, it’s impossible to single one out. And then, when you think you’ve had just too much in the way of beautiful singing, there comes these amazingly gorgeous strains from the orchestra.

Perhaps I will go along with Rob‘s comment to Anna, about the last couple of minutes, as the Count seeks the Countess’s pardon, and the story ends happily*, with all singing and the house lights rising to include the audience in the general happiness.

One man on the end of myrow rose to leave as that final bit began. I cannot for the life of me begin to understand why anybody would do that. Yes, he was infirm and walking with a stick, but I could never contemplate leaving just before the grand final. Sure, leave as soon as the final note sounds. Jimmy commented “Remind me never to get old” (I said if he was serious, it could be arranged…)

Overall an excellent performance of a beautiful opera. It’s my first opera of the year but I’m already thinking that it will be a contender for my Top 10 of 2006. If it doesn’t make the final cut, it will be because 2006 will have turned out to be an amazingly good year…!

* although in Part 3 of the trilogy, the Countess ends up having a child outside of wedlock with Cherubino.»

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