Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Die Walküre, Opera North

A day is now a very long time indeed in politics; would that it were otherwise. It certainly is in the Ring, as we move forward a generation to Die Walküre.

Early Gluck arias at the Wigmore Hall

If composers had to be categorised as either conservatives or radicals, Christoph Willibald Gluck would undoubtedly be in the revolutionary camp, lauded for banishing display, artifice and incoherence from opera and restoring simplicity and dramatic naturalness in his ‘reform’ operas.

Das Rheingold, Opera North

Das Rheingold is, of course, the reddest in tooth and claw of all Wagner’s dramas - which is saying something.

Peter Grimes in Princeton

The Princeton Festival presents one opera annually, amidst other events. Its offerings usually alternate annually between 20th century and earlier operas. This year the Festival presented Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, now a classic work, in a very effective and moving production.

Scintillating Strauss in Saint Louis

If you like your Ariadne on Naxos productions as playful as a box of puppies, then Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the address for you.

Saint Louis Takes On ‘The Scottish Opera’

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis took forty years before attempting Verdi’s Macbeth but judging by the excellence of the current production, it was well worth the wait.

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Shalimar in St. Louis: Pagliaccio Non Son

In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Ekaterina Siurina (Susanna) and Simon Keenlyside (Count) [Photo copyright Ken Howard courtesy of Metropolitan Opera]
12 Nov 2007

Le Nozze di Figaro – Metropolitan Opera

Le Nozze di Figaro, in 1786, was the longest and most elaborate opera buffa ever composed and (though it is seldom given complete) is still the longest you are likely to see in the regular repertory.

W. A. Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro – Metropolitan Opera
10 November 2007

Ekaterina Siurina (Susanna), Anja Harteros (Countess), Kate Lindsey (Cherubino), Marie McLaughlin (Marcellina), Bryn Terfel (Figaro), Simon Keenlyside (Count), Maurizio Muraro (Don Bartolo), Greg Fedderly (Don Basilio); conducted by Philippe Jordan.

Above: Ekaterina Siurina (Susanna) and Simon Keenlyside (Count)
All photos © Ken Howard courtesy of Metropolitan Opera

 

There are so many variables that a critic can easily find something to object to. A Countess short of breath in “Porgi amor,” with which (no warm-up) she opens Act II; a Cherubino too feminine for adolescent male outpourings; a Count insufficiently virile for his masculine vanity (the engine that drives the plot) to be credible; a Marcellina too young to be Figaro’s mother (Beaumarchais turns Oedipus into farce here, showing how close tragedy and comedy really are); a lackluster conductor; a “concept” staging that ignores half the plot; an ugly set; an incompetent fandango or leap from the window – there is always (as Gilda Radner would say) something. Attending the Met’s Figaro in a year when few world-famous names have signed on for it, the manipulator of the poison pen whets his fangs in malicious anticipation.

At the matinee of November 10, the Met fooled me: until the last two minutes of the staging (and then it was Jonathan Miller’s unaltered original direction that let me down, not anything the performers did), Le Nozze was as near perfect as you are likely to get, and none of those obvious lapses occurred. Anja Harteros sang both the Countess’s arias flawlessly and was, in addition, a radiant beauty whose neglect by any husband puzzled everyone and made him look an oaf. She won the ovation of the afternoon – even for one who missed the angelic quality Kiri Te Kanawa brought to the Countess’s final lines of forgiveness. (The opera – and buffo in general – is primarily about forgiveness for everybody’s human imperfections – which is why the original, imperial audience found it easy to overlook the revolutionary subtext.) Ekaterina Siurina, a plump Russian tidbit, as Susanna sang a radiant “Deh vieni non tardar” and a “Venite, inginocchiatevi” with the proper giggly bounce. Kate Lindsey is a real find – her Cherubino looked like an adolescent boy, a very pretty one to be sure but with an arrogant chin and a “street” sort of strut that made this cocksure kid a credible threat to the older males. She sang gloriously too. Marie McLaughlin made an ardent but not preposterous Marcellina – for once one regretted the omission of her aria – and Anne-Carolyn Bird, though a bit tall, sang a sweet Barberina.

Harteros_Countess.png Anja Harteros as the Countess

Among the men, Bryn Terfel naturally stood out in the title role. I did not like his Figaro when the production was brand new – he seemed so anxious to show what an actor he was that he huffed and puffed and groaned and grimaced instead of singing; Mozart took a back seat to Beaumarchais. He has calmed down considerably over the years, and though still a bouncing buffo-man with plenty of time for comedy (if his pretence of jumping off the balcony is not quite believable), he now sings the arias at a less frenetic pace, with more of the elegance they require and reward. Simon Keenlyside played the Count as an elegant fop, forever tossing his curls and pratfalling on the polished floors, but this never interfered with his musical authority. Maurizio Murano’s blowhard Bartolo, Greg Fedderly’s slithy Basilio, and Patrick Carfizzi’s lumpish Antonio earned most of the day’s laughs.

Philippe Jordan is a young Swiss who conducts with zest and delight, as if he wanted to grab you by the ears and prove this is a masterpiece with charms you never suspected – hardly necessary with Figaro, but what I mean is, he takes none of it for granted, he is thrilled by the music and eager to share.

Siurina__Terfel_and_Keenlys.pngEkaterina Siurina (Susanna), Bryn Terfel (Figaro) and Simon Keenlyside (Count)

And what did I object to about the conclusion? In the Met’s rush to get the Countess into a new and glittery gown for the finale, no one has thought (and Mr. Miller years ago did not think) to have her show the ring to the Count, revealing to him that she is the mysterious lady he made love to in the dark. The audience knows this, and Figaro and Susanna know it, but the Count does not, and his heartfelt, aristocratic apology is inexplicable if he doesn’t. The laws of farce are immutable: If you do not tie all the knots, the machine unravels. It’s such an easy piece of business to fix – and so satisfying when it’s fixed. Patch it up, Met.

John Yohalem

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):