A Marriage Of Figaro Without The Fizz

ArgentinaArgentina Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro: Soloists,Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Colón. Conductor: Roberto Paternostro, Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 13.8.2013. (JSJ)

Count: Mathias Hausmann / Fabián Veloz
Countess: Maija Kovalevska / Natalia Lemercier
Figaro: Erwin Schrott / Fernando Radó
Susanna: Julia Novikova / Marisú Pavón
Cherubino: Serena Malfi / Florencia Machado
Dr. Bartolo: Luis Gaeta / Norberto Marcos
Marcellina: Guadalupe Barrientos / Monica Sardi
Don Basilio: Sergio Spina / Duilio Smiriglia
Don Curzio: Gabriel Centeno / Sergio Spina
Barbarina: Oriana Favaro / Jaquelina Livieri
Antonio: Emiliano Bulacios

Director/sets: Davide Livermore & Alfonso Antoniozzi
Sets: Davide Livermore
Lighting: Vladi Spigarolo
Costumes: Mariana Fracasso
Chorus: Miguel Martínez

Given the popularity of Mozart’s wonderful Le nozze di Figaro, productions seem rather few and far between in Buenos Aires, with the last about 5 years ago (and the last at the Colón 11 years ago). So this new production was timely and keenly awaited, with an interesting cast including Uruguayan Erwin Schrott, whose last appearance was at the outset of his career.

The production had all the trappings of a traditional production, but more 19th to 20th century than 17th or 18th, with a V-shaped building corner with a gallery forming the basic set, with a video projection of images used very effectively to elaborate the different settings. Which would have been fine if left at that, but the video was also used to illustrate ‘thoughts’ and for example during Cherubino’s “Non so più …” images of nude women were displayed, and in “Non più andrai” when Figaro is sending Cherubino off there were images of soldiers – which could have been effective if more subtly done but instead proved distracting.

Also distracting was the presence of an old maid – an elderly Barbarina, it transpired at the end – seated in a chair during the overture, when a succession of elderly men with suitcases filed past, some greeting her, others passing by, who then reappeared, dozing in the chair in the closing scene – as if to convey the story as a memory of her youth or perhaps a dream.

The musical direction was in the hands of Roberto Paternostro, who was last here for the Colón Ring. Like the description then of “well measured,” the same is applicable here, and at times on the slow side, although with the orchestra technically perfect.

Similarly with the cast in their interactions lacking the sense of spontaneity and “fizz” that is so necessary for this work and could have elevated it from the good to the excellent. Schrott was impeccable as a suave Figaro, perhaps a tad over-familiar with the Count and Countess, and good singing from Julia Novikova (Susanna), Maija Kovalevska (Countess) and Mathias Hausmann (Count), as well as young Guadelupe Barrientos (Marcellina). Luis Gaeta (Bartolo) as always a consummate actor lacked volume and Sergio Spina’s Basilio was more assertive than slimy.

But alongside Schrott the star of the evening was the young Italian mezzo Serena Malfi, whose Cherubino was just right, without being exaggerated, and delightfully sung.

Jonathan Spencer Jones