The Two Figaros at Teatro Colón

ArgentinaArgentina  Mercadante, I Due Figaro: Soloists, Vienna Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini. Conductor: Riccardo Muti, Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 28.8.2012. (JSJ)

Director: Emilio Sagi
Sets: Daniel Bianco
Costumes: Jesús Ruiz
Lighting: Eduardo Bravo
Chorus: Walter Zeh
Choreography: Nuria Castejón

Count Almaviva: Saimir Pirgu / Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani
Countess: Asude Karayavuz
Inez: Rosa Feola
Cherubino: Annalisa Stroppa
Figaro: Mario Cassi
Susanna: Eleonora Buratto
Torribio: Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani / Gustavo De Gennaro
Plagio: Omar Montanari

I due Figaro at Teatro Colón; photo credit: Teatro Colón)

Fast forward some fifteen or so years on from Figaro and Susanna’s wedding night and the outwitting of the Count in The Marriage of Figaro – and we meet again these familiar characters, as well as some new ones, still engaged in a succession of pranks, in Mercadante’s long forgotten but recently revived I due Figaro (the two Figaros).

Why the work suffered as it did is not spelled out in the program, although it seems to have been fated from the start: Mercadante had exercised his right for the production to be a benefit for him, but his leading soprano Letizia Cortesi, who was due to play Susanna, was angered wanting the benefit for herself, and through her influential lover the production was suddenly cancelled. It was then a further ten years before the work saw the light of day, but without Mercadante present.

The driving force behind the recovery of I due Figaro is Riccardo Muti, who in recovering works of his native Naples is also focussing on the works of Mercadante, who trained there. Its first (modern) productions were at the Salzburg and Ravenna Festivals last year, followed by a March/April production at the Teatro Real in Madrid, and this the fourth is a co-production with these organizations.

In fact the Buenos Aires production is the original production lock, stock and barrel – sets, conductor, orchestra, chorus, principals – with the exception of one cast change, that of the Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu as the Count.

Clearly much of the interest for the local audience was Riccardo Muti, making his Colón opera debut. He amply lived up to his formidable reputation, with excellent conducting that maintained the momentum through the longish and what at times seems drawn out work. Certainly the orchestra – Muti’s Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini – is well familiar with the work, as are the chorus, although seemingly not on best form on opening night, and the principals, who all sung well.

That leaves a special word for Pirgu, who although young (just 31 years) made for a distinguished and believable Count. Like Rossini, Mercadante’s Count is a tenor and Pirgu’s lyric instrument was a delight, with agility and depth, and well fitted the role. This is a father of a daughter, Inez, and while continuing to be taken in by Figaro and Cherubino, one senses they have to work just that much harder to do so!


Jonathan Spencer Jones