Archive for the Reviews (all) Category

Le Nozze di Figaro: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2010 on June 6, 2010 by Giorgia

by William Hartston (Express.co.uk)

Many years ago, I decided to transfer the best bits of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro to a cassette tape so that I would have something to listen to during a trip abroad. The trouble was that I could hardly bear to leave anything out.

The entire opera is like an endless stream of Mozart’s greatest hits, and when they are sung and acted to such sublime perfection as in current Covent Garden production, it makes for an evening of pure delight.

The title role is sung by the Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott, who has one of the most effortlessly powerful voices I have ever heard. He filled the opera house with his glorious tone, while displaying excellent comic timing and a range of gestures and facial expressions that accentuated both the ridiculous and the dramatic elements of the plot.

Figaro is about to marry Susanna (beautifully played by the Japanese soprano Eri Nakamura), who like him is a servant to the Count and Countess Almaviva.

The Count, however, wants to have his evil way with Susanna, and the main story-line revolves around Figaro’s plots to prevent this happening.

The Polish baritone  Mariusz Kwiecien, who played the part of the Count, looks rather like Derren Brown, with a similar style of facial hair, giving him a wonderfully intense and sinister look very appropriate to the role.

Mozart’s operatic genius is always most apparent in his duets, trios and quartets, when he blends the voices together in deliciously magical ways, but he also always makes a point of giving solos to the lead singers in which they can take centre stage and sing their hearts out to enrapture the audience.

Shrott, Nakamura and Kwiechien were all on scintillating form, giving this almost the air of a talent contest with all the leading performers getting better and better as the opera went on, as if trying to outdo each other.

With Annette Dasch (who apart from a superbly lyrical soprano voice has the most beautiful blue eyes in opera) as the Countess, and the Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Jurgita Adamonyte delightful in the role of the mischievous pageboy Cherubino, all the main roles left nothing to be desired.

The whole opera, including a half-hour interval, lasted three-and-a-half joyous hours. I would happily have sat through another couple of hours to hear more singing and acting of this quality, not to mention the perfectly controlled playing of the orchestra under the baton of the ever reliable Sir Colin Davis.

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Le nozze di Figaro at Covent Garden, London WC2

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2010 on June 4, 2010 by Giorgia

by Hilary Finch (The Times)

London always feels better when David McVicar’s Figaro is back. The torments, caprices and follies of this opera’s single day metamorphose delightfully with changing casts and conductors. But the elderly, slightly daffy cleaning lady from this highly individuated chorus is always there — busy among the heavily burdened female servants in the overture, finally getting to dance with Figaro, taking the final bow, and embodying the deep and shrewdly observed humanity of this production.

The woman, face upturned, catches the falling-leaf confetti as the fast spin of the plot suddenly turns to slow motion, the sky darkens for Barbarina’s little aria (plangently sung by Amanda Forsythe), and the bosky canopy of dusk descends. This is just one of the staging’s special moments; another this time round is McVicar’s cunning and witty tweaking of the disguise scene in the garden, making the most of the strikingly discrepant heights of this Susanna and this Countess.

And, in this second revival, it is very much a singers’ Figaro. Last time Charles Mackerras tuned the ear excitingly to the orchestra’s nerve-system. Now, Colin Davis, with broader, more sweeping tempos, and more ballast in the bass, gives the singers a Rolls-Royce to ride in — and they seem to love it. His conducting and the orchestral playing is marvellous support for the Jette Parker Young Artist Eri Nakamura in her glowingly and intelligently sung Susanna, refreshingly free of coyness, yet both feisty and wonderingly wide-eyed.

Her Figaro is the one who created the role when the production was new in 2006: the formidable Erwin Schrott who, in superbly cultivated voice, has a knowing, dignified and often very amusing sense of self-possession and a vocal depth that, in Act IV, can find the true darkness of despair.

His counterpart in the struggle for male self-awareness is the Count of Mariusz Kwiecin, a rabid hunter, filling his own inner vacuum with a virtuoso anger and violence that can make body and voice quiver from top to toe. His is a more engaging performance than Annette Dasch’s Countess (pictured with Mariusz Kwiecin) in a vocally tense, though powerful, house debut.

The pleasing Cherubino of Jurgita Adamonyte needs more close-focus detail of the type we splendidly see in the vintage double-act of Robert Lloyd’s Bartolo and the Marcellina of Marie McLaughlin, her soprano as fresh as that of any Susanna half her age.

It’s worth mentioning the forthcoming cast changes this time too: later in the run look out for Jacques Imbrailo’s Count, Soile Isokoski’s Countess — and the excellent David Syrus, responsible for this production’s music preparation, taking over the baton from June 20.

Le Nozze di Figaro

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2010 on June 3, 2010 by Giorgia

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.

Erwin Schrott, un Fígaro que llena el escenario desde el primer momento

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2010 on June 3, 2010 by Giorgia

(EFE)

El extraordinario barítono uruguayo Erwin Schrott, como Fígaro, y su también impresionante colega polaco Mariusz Kwieczen en el papel del conde Almaviva destacan claramente sobre el resto del reparto en la reposición de “Las Bodas de Fígaro”, de Mozart, en la Royal Opera House londinense.

Al lado de ambos intérpretes masculinos, Eri Nakamura -que ha interpretado ya en Londres con éxito otros papeles como “Giulietta”, en “I Capuleti e i Montecchi”; Frasquita, en “Carmen”; o Musetta, en “La Bohème”- no logra convencer del todo en su rol de Susanna.

La joven soprano japonesa tiene una voz bella, pero, incluso con la enorme ayuda del maestro Colin Davis, le cuesta proyectarla, de modo que resulta difícilmente audible en algún momento, sobre todo al principio de la representación.

Por otro lado, la comicidad casi histérica que imprime a su personaje puede resultar a veces un punto forzada.

Schrott domina la escena cada vez que aparece. El uruguayo, que en declaraciones a Efe dijo haber madurado con su personaje, demuestra una vez más ser no sólo un cantante con un hermoso timbre varonil y potente sino también un auténtico animal escénico que transmite una increíble sensualidad.

Su forma de interpretar los recitativos, hablando más que cantando, confiere una gran espontaneidad y naturalidad a los diálogos, que puede generar un cierto desequilibrio cuando otros intérpretes optan por un enfoque más tradicional, como ha señalado algún crítico.

Schrott, el único intérprete de la producción original, parece sentirse más cómodo que nunca en la piel del rebelde Figaro, un papel que domina hata el extremo de que parece hecho especialmente para él, tanto desde el punto de vista vocal como del dramático, y es un auténtico deleite verle y escucharle.

Él es el verdadero motor del drama y en él se encarna magistralmente la quiebra del orden feudal, que le convierte en el igual de un conde empeñado en defender el derecho de pernada con sus sirvientes.

Del mismo modo, Mariusz Kwiecien, que debutaba como Almaviva en la Royal Opera House, en el Covent Garden, pese a haber interpretado ese papel en otros grandes teatros, incluido la Metropoitan Opera de Nueva York, une a su vez una espléndida voz de barítono con una enorme energía.

Entre las cantantes, además de la citada soprano japonesa, cuyo físico tampoco se adecúa demasiado al personaje que interpreta, cabría destacar a la alemana Annette Dasch, una soprano de gran potencia vocal y fuerte presencia que debuta también en el Covent Garden y a la que en otras funciones sustituirá la finlandesa Soile Isokoski.

La mezzosoprano lituana Jurgita Adamonyté hace un Cherubino que convence sólo a medias. La suya es también una voz que no tiene la potencia que requiere un auditorio como el de la Royal Opera House.

Afortunadamente, sin embargo, Sir Colin Davis, uno de los más destacados intérpretes de Mozart, dirige en todo momento con extraordinaria sensibilidad para los cantantes.

La puesta en escena de David McVicar, llena de movimiento y energía, funciona tan perfectamente como el primer día, y seguirá aguantando bien el tiempo.

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2010 on June 2, 2010 by Giorgia

by Dominic McHugh (MusicalCriticism.com)

A young cast headed by Erwin Schrott came together for this second revival of David McVicar’s production of Le nozze di Figaro at Covent Garden. And while the vocal elements aren’t of the highest quality, the feeling of ensemble and the imagination of the direction make for a highly entertaining evening at the opera.

Much has been made of the revolutionary aspects of McVicar’s staging, which updates the text to 1830. Certainly, reference is made to this in the costumes and in the sets, and there are some nice touches such as the scientific equipment the Count is playing with in Act 3. There’s also a general feeling of the Almaviva chateau beginning to sag at the edges, which is a representation of the working classes starting to take over and the privileged classes losing power (after all, the Count relinquishes his droit de seigneur as a sign of being a reformed, enlightened master).

But in truth, the production’s real strength is its wit. Few stagings in the Royal Opera’s current repertory are directed with so much detail in terms of the physical acting of the singers. Indeed, it’s so well observed, so fluent, that it feels more like musical theatre or a top-notch production of a play than an opera production. From the start of the overture, there’s lots going on, with the servants crossing the stage and mopping the floor and having an argument. Figaro and Susanna’s bedroom is realistically gloomy, and Figaro’s measurement of the bed in the opening duet actually seems well-motivated for once.

Indeed, there’s so much poignant humour in this production that one wonders why McVicar doesn’t tackle more comedy. It’s charming without being gooey, as well as being so thoughtful as to finally bring Da Ponte the attention he deserves; this is, after all, one of opera’s finest libretti. Men and women, servants and masters, indoors and outdoors: the piece presents a series of contrasts, the most effective of which is perhaps the move to the garden in the final act – here performed with aching beauty – so that all the characters can bring their problems ‘out into the open’.

Credit for the evening’s success is also due to Tanya McCallin’s designs – her finest work by far, in my opinion – which have a cinematic fluidity to them. The transitions from Act 1 to 2 and Act 3 to 4 are smoothly done and propel us through the evening elegantly. Her costumes are also truly beautiful, too, be it the Countess’s distinguished garb for the final scene or the servants’ green uniforms.

The whole cast throws itself into the evening without reservation, and it’s impossible to resist its charms. Nevertheless, the vocal casting was less than ideal. German soprano Annette Dasch makes heavy weather of the Countess’s music, really pushing to hit the A flat in ‘Porgi amor’, for instance, and her Italian diction is indistinct. The fine young mezzo Jurgita Adamonytė, whom I’ve previously admired, suffered some inaccurate tuning here in ‘Non so più’ and didn’t quite come into her own in ‘Voi che sapete’, although she is extremely believably as the teenage boy, Cherubino.

It was a pretty spectacular night for Eri Nakamura, the Jette Parker Young Artist who has taken over the entire run as Susanna. She was poised and endearingly cute throughout, and more than held her own against her more experienced colleagues. She also sang with impressive security and style. However, for my taste her voice lacks the sweetness and creaminess that a young Susanna should have, and she was also a little unconvincing as Figaro’s wife.

That was in no way the fault of Erwin Schrott, whose Figaro was by far the most rounded portrayal of the evening. Every movement, note and gesture was meaningful, whether his aria of horror in the final act upon mistakenly believing he has been betrayed or his humorous line in the second act when he pretends to have hurt his foot when supposedly jumping from the Countess’s window. There was an elegance in Schrott’s singing that I had not heard before (funnily enough, it was matched by his newly-groomed, closely-clipped hair), and even if he lacks the strength in the bottom notes, this is still very much his show.

The loudest cheers of the night were awarded to Mariusz Kwiecien’s Count after his third-act aria, but to my mind his voice is a little lightweight, even in this music, and he’s not dangerous enough (no match for Keenlyside or Finley in the role). I was, however, delighted by Marie McLaughlin’s witty Marcellina and Robert Lloyd’s ever-amusing Bartolo. Fair praise, too, to Amanda Forsythe’s enchanting Barbarina.

It’s not the best cast the world has to offer for Figaro, but they couldn’t go far wrong with Sir Colin Davis in the pit. Though there were some moments where singers and orchestra couldn’t quite keep up with his beat – such as in the servants’ chorus in Act 1 – the majority of the evening featured some of the most beautiful playing we’ve heard all season from the orchestra. In particular, the tenderness of the final act, elegiacally lit by Paule Constable, was a real pleasure. At the last, Figaro fans will surely not be disappointed.

Le Nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, review

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2010 on June 1, 2010 by Giorgia

by Rupert Christiansen (Telegraph)

Underpinning this hugely enjoyable revival of Mozart’s comic masterpiece – surely a far wiser and truer thing than the over-rated Così fan tutte – is the glorious conducting of that unlikely octogenarian Sir Colin Davis.

The secret magic his baton works is actually quite simple. He doesn’t seek to analyse or dominate the music. Instead, he gently loves it and warms it, letting every phrase breathe easy, honouring both its edge of mature melancholy and its bursts of youthful exuberance. Nothing is forced, nothing rushed, nothing ugly, and if there is the odd orchestral fluff or loss of ensemble, the unflustered Sir Colin brings it quietly to rights.

David McVicar’s fluent and elegant staging offers in many respects a fine complement. It isn’t ideal: even though Tanya McCallin’s designs evoke the period with a sharp eye, I’m not convinced that updating the setting to the 1830s adds anything to the libretto, and the first act in particular is overloaded with heavy-handed business, that leads some of the soloists and flotilla of supernumeraries into patches of arch overacting.

But more importantly, McVicar understands that this is an opera about the breaking-up of a social system, and the sense of servant bristling against master is powerfully rendered, as is the bustle, gossip and eavesdropping of a large aristocratic household. Patches of hyperactivity seem a small price to pay for the overall vitality on stage.

Star of the show is undoubtedly the charismatic Erwin Schrott as Figaro. Not just a handsome face and a vivid stage personality, he is also a forceful, thoughtful singer who makes the text crackle with implication.

This Figaro is not the amiable, galumphing dolt we often see, but someone on the qui vive, burningly ambitious and ready to take control, For once, he seemed far more assertive than his Susanna, nicely but daintily played by Eri Nakamura, who struck her best vocal form with a beautifully poised Deh vieni non tardar.

Mariusz Kwiecien sang crisply and firmly as the Count, even if his characterisation seemed melodramatic and excessively villainous. Annette Dasch presented a humanly credible Countess – restless, attractive, sensitive. Vocally, she was more successful with Dove sono than with Porgi amor. Jurgita Adamonyte made a promising debut as Cherubino, Peter Hoare’s mincing Basilio was sharply observed, and Amanda Forsythe was an enchanting little Barbarina – I bet we’ll be hearing more of her.

Le Nozze di Figaro

Posted in Reviews (all), Reviews 2010 on June 1, 2010 by Giorgia

by George Hall (The Stage)

David McVicar’s production of Mozart’s complex comedy maintains the same level of detailed observation that made it a hit back in 2006.

Though set designer Tanya McCallin’s inspiration runs out in Act 4- which is confusingly both inside and outside at the same time, and unconvincingly lit for the disguises to work – what happens elsewhere is highly specific both in terms of individual performances and in their complex interactions, as well as in the subsidiary Upstairs, Downstairs theme of watchful, not to say nosey servants. Figaro has rarely seemed so realistically intricate.

The cast has many strengths, led by the suavely intelligent Figaro of Erwin Schrott. In magnificent voice, he’s a little free with the notes, but entirely credible as a valet challenging his master and boldly fighting his corner. Eri Nakamura’s Susanna sounds brittle at times, but she enters into the vitality of the staging with aplomb.

At the top of the ladder, Marius Kwiecien’s arrogant Count is a tour-de-force, as strong in tone and definition as his vividly willful character.

Annette Dasch’s Countess is less vocally even, with some moments of blowsy tone and dodgy pitching blemishing a generally assured and sentient performance.

Jurgita Adamonyte’s Cherubino is perceptively sung and gracefully acted, and all the smaller roles are impressive.

Best of all is Colin Davis’ luminous conducting, immaculately balanced, and maintaining a flawless momentum without ever rushing Mozart’s notes.