Le Nozze di Figaro

by Tim Ashley (The Guardian)

How much is Le Nozze di Figaro about revolution? It’s a question posed by David McVicar’s tricky production of Mozart’s comedy, which takes a work usually seen as prophetic of the French revolution and relocates it to the years before the less convulsive upheaval of 1830, when the “July monarchy” under Louis-Philippe was installed. When it was new in 2006, it struck many as beautifully observed in emotional detail, but lacking political force.

Things have changed. This may be because McVicar, directing this revival himself, has tightened a few political screws. More pertinently, perhaps, is that in Mariusz Kwiecien’s Count and Erwin Schrott‘s Figaro we have performers equal in vocal and dramatic sensibility, capable of realising the central conflict in terms of psychology and class consciousness.

You sense danger whenever they are on stage. Kwiecien’s sexual insistence carries the terrifying potential for abuse. Schrott paces like a frustrated animal before stalking the Count with a shotgun. The climax comes in a phrase of recitative, often overlooked. “I never dispute matters of which I know nothing,” Schrott hisses at Kwiecien, eyeball to eyeball for the first time. The world seems changed in an instant.

This is one of the great, electrifying pairings in this work, but it also inadvertently pushes some of the rest of it to the sidelines. Colin Davis’s conducting is marvellous in its compassion and fire, but Eri Nakamura’s Susanna and Annette Dasch’s Countess, though finely sung and acted, just don’t always match the subtlety of what surrounds them.


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