United States Mozart, Le Nozze Di Figaro: The Metropolitan Opera HD Live screened at the Duke of York Cinema, Brighton, 18.10.2014
Figaro: Ildar Abdrazakov
Susanna: Marlis Petersen
Doctor Bartolo: John Del Carlo
Marcellina: Susanna Mentzer
Cherubino: Isabel Leonard
Count Almaviva: Peter Mattei
Don Basilio: Greg Fedderly
Countess Almaviva: Amanda Majeski
Antonio: Philip Cokorinos
Barbarina: Ying Fang
Don Curzio: Scott Scull
Director: Sir Richard Eyre
Conductor: James Levine
Set and Costume Designer Rob Howell
Lighting Designer Paule Constable
Choreographer Sara Erde
Richard Eyre’s new production of Mozart’s masterpiece updates the action from the 18th Century to the 1930’s. During the overture the stage turned in a carousel effect and we saw all of the rooms in the Count’s palace and were simultaneously introduced to some of the key characters in the opera. The set was a maze of interlocking rooms tastefully decorated with darkly coloured and intricate Iberian patterns on the walls. Richard Eyre said in the interview prior to the opera that he wanted the set to enhance the feeling of fluidity as the action moves from scene to scene and the set design certainly helped to achieve that. The movement of the stage allowed us to witness the daily activity of the characters in this warren of rooms and conveyed the sense that this was a place where intrigue and plots could be hatched. There was also an early whiff of scandal as we see a scantily clad young woman emerging from a bedroom pursued by the Pater Mattei’s lecherous Count in a silk dressing gown introducing us to the theme of infidelity in love which courses through the opera.
The key thing which struck me about the performances was the way in which the cast seemed to integrate the musical and dramatic elements of the opera so seamlessly. Ildar Abdrazakov and Marlis Petersen both brought a real sense of fun and comic exuberance to the title roles. Abdrakakov was rock solid as Figaro and he produced a dark, full throated tone and tasteful and elegantly tapered phrasing. His Act 1 aria Non piu andai was fresh and invigorating bringing the first Act to a resoundingly triumphant conclusion. His Figaro was good natured, fun loving and quick thinking and a real joy to watch from start to finish. Marlis Petersen has an absolutely gorgeous voice and she produced a beautifully balanced and well integrated sound in all the ensemble numbers. I particularly liked her Act 1 duet with Susanna Mentzer’s Macellina where the catty exchanges between the two women were played up for all they were worth. Her Act 4 aria Deh Vieni, non tardar was ravishing in tone and exquisitely executed. She embodied the bold, cunning and resourceful Susanna to perfection and there was a high degree of attention to the dramatic detail in many of the scenes.
Peter Mattei is always a very reliable performer and he portrayed the role of the Count brilliantly showing us the devil may care philandering, the jealous rages and the hapless scheming. His Act 3 aria was powerful and thrilling while the final Contessa perdono in Act 4 had a gorgeous tonal lustre. This was Amanda Majeski’s Met début as the Countess and she did a reasonably good job. Porgi Amor in Act 2 was truly heartfelt and had a gorgeous tone and a nice flow. I also loved the beginning of her Act 3 aria Dove sono – surely one of the most beautiful operatic arias ever written – but I was less convinced by the second half which seemed a little less comfortable and assured. Majeski’s tone also sounded a little forced on occasion in some of the ensemble work particularly in the upper register but having said that her At 3 duet with Susanna was sublime.
Isabel Leonard was the stand out performer among the rest of the cast. She embodied the hormone driven, adolescent and feckless Cherubino to perfection and did a superb job bringing out the male persona and characteristics. Both of her arias were dispatched with a high degree of technical finish and attention to detail and were beautifully phrased. Greg Fedderley and Ying Fang both did an excellent job in the roles of Don Basilio and Barbarina respectively. Suzanne Mentzer presented us with a spirited Marcellina ready to throw herself into the party although some of the rapid coloratura was a little untidy. John del Carlo was disappointing in the role of Doctor Bartolo and some of the singing was ragged and out of tun
James Levine kept a firm hand on proceedings throughout the evening: this was his 75th production of the Met and his love and depth of understanding for this most remarkable of operas shone through. The overture was light and whimsical at the beginning but it also had a robust quality and an energy which I liked. All of the entries in the magnificent Act 2 finale were handled to perfection and the various tempo changes were seamless with the orchestra providing a flexible and perfectly articulated accompaniment to the singers. The games of deception and the final redemption of the Count in Act 4 were also handled beautifully with Levine and the Met orchestra somehow finding the right balance between the sombre and more uplifting material and moving seamlessly from sorrow to laughter and redemption.
Another great production from the Met and a welcome return for Maestro Levine – bravo to all concerned.