Le Nozze di Figaro

by David Blewitt (The Stage online)

«Directors should resist mission statements. David McVicar asserts he’s “scraping off a patina… of meaningless, crap tradition” in his new Figaro production. Instead, he skilfully lays on cliches.

During the Overture McVicar brings alive the Almavivas’ chateau. Denizens from below stairs troop around, mug and grope, distracting from the music. Predictably thereafter, he deploys eavesdropping housemaids and footmen to raise easy laughs.

They undermine the Susanna/Marcellina exchange of insults, blunt the intensity of the Almavivas’ edgy recriminations after his unexpected return, ruin Act III’s finale by cavorting amateurishly.

Mozart, McVicar declares, “understands the quality of love and its great, great cost”. That the Almavivas’ mutual love survives despite everything is never established. The Count’s jealousy remains unmotivated, the “great cost” and “necessity of reconciliation” do not convince. Only Miah Persson’s sublime Susanna exemplifies love’s redemptive powers – ‘Deh Vieni’ is exquisitely sung.

McVicar offers merely cardboard stereotypes – an aggressively boorish Count, a Countess without gravitas, a swaggering, self-regarding Figaro enthusiastically projected by the charismatic Erwin Schrott. The Cherubino is a cipher and Philip Langridge’s simperingly grotesque Basilio an embarrassment.

Worse is Antonio Pappano’s conducting, its breakneck speeds retarded by an indulgent phrasing of occasional setpieces. Dorothea Roschmann’s Countess gamely accommodates the soupy accompaniments to hers.

Rushed tempos force Schrott and Gerald Finley’s Count into coarse blustering, handicap performers in singing expressively off words – notably in Figaro’s ‘Aprite un po’quegli occhi’ – and frequently render recitative ‘Sprechstimme’. Act II’s concluding ensemble barely held together.

However, the first-night audience’s enthusiasm signals a palpable hit for the ROH.»

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