Madrid’s Winning Revival of Le Nozze di Figaro

Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro: Soloists, Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid, Coro Intermezzo. Conductor: Víctor Pablo Pérez. Teatro Real de Madrid. 30.5.2011 (JMI)

Production Teatro Real in coproduction with Bilbao’s ABAO, Las Palmas Teatro Pérez Galdós and Lithuanian Opera and Ballet Theatre

Direction: Emilio Sagi
Sets: Daniel Bianco
Costumes: Renata Schussheim
Lighting: Eduardo Bravo
Choreography: Nuria Castejón


Figaro: Pietro Spagnoli
Susanna: Aleksandra Kurzak
Countess: Annette Dasch
Count: Nathan Gunn
Cherubino: Alessandra Marianelli
Don Bartolo: Carlos Chausson
Marcellina: Jeannette Fischer
Basilio: Raúl Giménez
Barbarina: María Savastano
Don Curzio: Enrique Viana
Antonio: Miguel Sola

Emilio Sagi’s Le Nozze di Figaro premiered in Madrid in July of 2009. Two years ago this production was a huge success with most everything working to perfection. If this revival remains the real winner, it’s largely due to the staging, but the musical aspect was not what could be expected and the vocal cast outstanding only as regards the secondary characters. The production has traveled much, between the premiere and the revival, and I have written about it for Seen & Heard, not just from Madrid (review), but also from Bilbao (review) and Pamplona ( review).

This time the musical direction was entrusted to Victor Pablo Perez, who seems always ready to conduct operas by Mozart, just never truly convincing. Le Nozze di Figaro is an opera buffa that needs a big dose of life, of joy and of lightness, and when you get none of those, something’s amiss. No question Mr. Perez is an excellent conductor, but not in this repertoire. Right from the overture you could tell that we were not going to attend a “folle journée”, but rather a very correct journée: short on lightness and joy, long on prim and proper. Not even the orchestra was at its best. Perhaps a question of too few rehearsals, given the disappointing performance of the choir, particularly in Act I.

Two years ago Luca Pisaroni turned in a great Figaro, this time Pietro Spagnoli fell well below the set standard. In fact, he did not rise above sheer mediocrity.

The memories of Isabel Rey as Susanna at the premiere of this production, as well as the performance of Ainhoa ​​Garmendia in Bilbao were very vivid in my mind and only an Aleksandra Kurzak at her best could get to that level. In fact, of the four principal singers, only she was worth of a top opera house. She was outstanding indeed, in a fully convincing performance, crowned with a magnificent version of the aria “Deh, vieni non tardar.”
German soprano Annette Dasch is one of those singers who are the delight of the opera directors today, offering attractiveness, stage presence, and great acting abilities. But the Countess is not for her, I am afraid. Annette Dasch was an excellent Countess on stage, giving much sense to her recitatives, but Mozart does not forgive any shortcomings in those most beautiful arias that he gave to this role. Annette Dasch was mediocre in both arias, truly disappointing and singing off pitch more than once.

Something similar happens with American baritone Nathan Gunn as Count Almaviva. In 2009 Madrid had a spectacular Mariusz Kwiecien, unsurpassed in this character, and Bilbao an outstanding Ludovic Tézier. The Nathan Gunn of 2011 cannot be compared with either of them. He can be very interesting in a different repertoire, as he is a great singing-actor, but not here. The silence that the audience met his big aria in Act III with, was most eloquent on this subject.

Alessandra Marianelli was a good Cherubino. The character can be sung by a soprano or a mezzo soprano, but I find it more interesting with a darker voice than a light soprano. In the trio of the second act the presence of three sopranos did not offer enough contrast of voices.

If the main characters didn’t fill the expectations set by the respective roles’ predecessors in this production, the situation was reversed with the secondary characters. Or not exactly reversed, since Carlos Chausson simply repeated his excellent Bartolo as did Jeannette Fischer d her Marcellina… the latter being a better actress than singer, but very convincing at “Il capro è la capretta”. Raúl Giménez was outstanding again as Basilio, even though he didn’t shine much in the (cut, as is usual) aria in Act IV. Maria Savastano was new as Barbarina and proved remarkable in every aspect.

José MªIrurzun