Teatro Real’s well-sung but sometimes disappointing production of Le nozze di Figaro

SpainSpain Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro: Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Real / Ivor Bolton (conductor). Teatro Real, Madrid, 27 & 28.4.2022. (JMI)

Teatro Real’s Le nozze di Figaro © Javier del Real

Director – Claus Guth
Sets and costumes – Christian Schmidt
Lighting – Olaf Winter
Choreographer – Andi A. Muller

Figaro – Vito Priante / Thomas Oliemans
Susanna – Julie Fuchs / Elena Sancho-Pereg
Countess Almaviva – María José Moreno / Miren Urbieta-Vega
Count Almaviva – André Schuen / Joan Martín-Royo
Cherubino – Rachael Wilson / Maite Beaumont
Marcellina – Monica Bacelli / Gemma Coma-Alabert
Bartolo – Fernando Radó / Daniel Giulianini
Basilio – Christophe Montagne
Don Curzio – Moisés Marín
Barbarina – Alexandra Flood
Antonio – Leonardo Galeazzi
Angel – Uli Kirsch

Le nozze de Figaro was last performed at the Teatro Real eight years ago. At that time, it featured a double cast with few big-name singers, which was true on this occasion as well. It had been announced that the production would be by Lotte de Beer, but that was cancelled and replaced by the well-known Claus Guth staging which premiered in 2006 at the Salzburg Festival.

I found this production unsatisfying. It uses the same set for most of the opera: three of the four acts take place mainly on a large staircase. This is the least appropriate in Act IV which supposedly takes place in a garden that doesn’t exist here. The staircase does disappear in Act II, hidden by a panel with doors and leaving the Countess’s room at the front. The costumes are rather modern overall.

Guth usually stands out for his stage direction, but this wasn’t the case here. His more or less original contribution consists of the presence throughout the opera of an angel who seems to be the one who moves the plot forward. In short, it is a production of little interest that has not aged well.

As in the 2014 Le nozze di Figaro, the conductor was Ivor Bolton, the current musical director of Teatro Real. I must say that I had high expectations – Bolton’s readings are usually brilliant, even if his Figaro eight years ago was a little disappointing. Now his conducting lacked spark and liveliness, especially in the first two acts. Perhaps opera buffa is not the best fit for him. I was also surprised by the orchestra, which fell below their usual excellent standard.

Figaro was performed in the first cast by baritone Vito Priante, who has an attractive voice and a good stage presence. In the second cast, I once again found baritone Thomas Oliemans unconvincing: his voice has little appeal and he seems rather mature for a cast that included quite a few young singers. Interestingly, he did not receive applause for his arias.

Susanna was sung by soprano Julie Fuchs, whose interpretation was remarkable. Her voice is beautiful and well-handled, and she is a good actress too. In the alternate cast, Elena Sancho Pereg gave a pleasing performance overall, though there are times when her voice only cuts through the orchestra with difficulty.

Maria José Moreno (Countess), Rachael Wilson (Cherubino) and Julie Fuchs (Susanna) © Javier del Real

For my taste, the best in vocal terms was María José Moreno as the Countess Almaviva. We have enjoyed her singing in the role of Susanna many times in the past, and now she gave us an impeccable Countess. She sang with great gusto and shone in both of her arias, especially in a magnificent rendition of ‘Dove sono’, where she got the biggest ovation of the night – a well-deserved one. In the second cast, the Countess was played by Miren Urbieta-Vega, who offered an interesting voice. She was better in ‘Porgi amor’ than in ‘Dove sono’, where there were some open sounds.

André Schuen did well in the role of Count Almaviva and gave a solid interpretation of his important aria in the third act, ‘Hai già vinta la causa’. Joan Martín-Royo was the Count in the second cast. I have seen him several times as Figaro, and I think he is better suited to that part than to the Count. His voice is not extraordinary, but he is very good on stage.

Mezzo-soprano Rachael Wilson has an appealing voice and gave an outstanding performance in the trouser role of Cherubino. In the other cast, Maite Beaumont’s Cherubino was somewhat modest. The secondary characters were all covered appropriately.

The Teatro Real was almost sold out.

José M. Irurzun

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