Fine Cast in Gimmicky Production of Figaro at Semperoper, Dresden

GermanyGermany Mozart, Le nozze di FigaroSoloists, Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden/Omer Meir Wellber (conductor),  Semperoper, Dresden, Germany, 11.5.2016. (MC)

Photo credit: Semperoper.
Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (c) Semperoper

Count Almaviva – Boaz Daniel
Countess Almaviva – Barbara Senator
Figaro – Evan Hughes
Cherubino – Jelena Kordic
Marcellina – Sabine Brohm
Bartolo – Matthias Henneberg
Don Basilio – Aaron Pegram
Barbarina – Menna Cazel
Don Curzio – Gerald Hupach
Antonio – Julian Arsenault
Due Donne – Katharina Flade,  Barbara Leo

Musical director – Omer Meir Wellber
Director – Johannes Erath
Set design – Katrin Connan
Costume – Birgit Wentsch
Lighting – Fabio Antoci
Choir – Cornelius Volke
Dramaturgie – Francis Husers

Despite all the frivolity in Le nozze di Figaro thanks to Da Ponte’s libretto there is richness to Mozart’s magnificent music performed so masterly by the Staatskapelle Dresden under Omer Meir Wellber. Directing from the harpsichord, the talented Wellber accompanied the sung recitatives and even played the melody La Vie en rose on the accordion on a couple of occasions. In a few days’ time Wellber will conduct the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Frauenkirche. Undoubtedly a big future is guaranteed for this musician.

Director Johannes Erath and set designer Katrin Connan came together with a rather minimalist set design using a stage within a stage concept. Noticeably some of the scenes had an image of a flower on the back wall and I was puzzled by the thinking behind the frozen poses. There was a wooden set with viewing flaps and trapdoors to hidden spaces including one door accommodating a blue barber’s chair with a tall vertical lift. Somehow it all felt like a large version of a child’s activity centre.

Dominating another act was an extremely long dining table then a large wooden wardrobe into which cast came and went, and hid, and finally a number of garden swing sets on tiered platforms. Other stage paraphernalia included a dead stag, a single swing suspended from the roof and a number of cake stands which all seemed rather esoteric complete with comedy simulated sex. The costumes by designer Burgit Wentsch had a feminine feel, a cross between harlequin/pierrot marionettes and eighteenth century frock coats and wigs with hooped dress and pouffe hairstyles combined with the modern workwear of the stage hands. Not forgetting the group of twenty or so bellboys/girls in their blue tunics with maroon stripes.

Photo credit: Semperoper.
Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (c) Semperoper

I found the main protagonists reasonably evenly matched. Decked out in an aquamarine frock coat, black boots and grey wig Count Almaviva played by baritone Boaz Daniel displayed a rich and confident voice, although at times he struggled hard to be heard over the orchestra. In a loveless marriage Countess Almaviva complete with built-up ginger hair and hooped dress in fuchsia was well sung by Barbara Senator revealing a dark tinged tone and able to provide longing and pathos when required.

Wearing mainly a black dress and black and white check tights the role of Susanna was elegantly sung by Carolina Ullrich, with lovely tone and diction, exhibiting controlled and attractive high notes. Evan Hughes acted well as Figaro swaggering around as if he owned the stage, a persona matched by his equally confident singing. Unfortunately my last memory of him is singing his aria wearing bathrobe, pyjamas and flip-flops. Jelena Kordic in the role of page Cherubino, clearly amorously attached to the countess, initially seemed a touch nervous but provided good clarity and projection. In the final act Basilio’s aria In quegli anni cui val paco was satisfyingly sung by Aaron Pegram.

Johannes Erath’s rather gimmicky production was entertaining with a fine cast but it didn’t present Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro at anywhere near its best but with an orchestra as excellent as this the quality of the music shone through like a beacon.

Michael Cookson

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