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

Poliuto, Glyndebourne

Donizetti’s Poliuto at Glyndebourne could well become one of of the great Glyndebourne classics.

Carmen by ENO

Dystopic vision of Carmen, brought to life by vibrantly gripping performances

Pacific Opera Project Presents Ariadne auf Naxos

Pacific Opera Project, a small Los Angeles company, presented a production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Ebell Club with an excellent group of young singers at the beginning of what should be good careers.

Varispeed pushes the possibilities of opera forward with Robert Ashley’s Crash

Six people, dressed in ordinary clothing, sitting in a row at desks adorned only with microphones and glasses of water, and talking for ninety minutes: is it opera?

Rising Stars in Concert, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The spring concert of Rising Stars in Concert, sponsored by and featuring current members of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago, showcased a number of talents that will no doubt continue to grace the stages of the world’s operatic theaters.

The Singers Sparkle in New York Opera Exchange’s Carmen

New York Opera Exchange’s production of Carmen from May 8th to 10th highlighted that which opera devotees have been saying for years: Opera, far from being dead, is vibrant and evolving.

‘Where’er You Walk’: Handel’s Favourite Tenor

I have sometimes lamented the preference of Ian Page’s Classical Opera for concert performances and recordings over staged productions, albeit that their renditions of eighteenth-century operas and vocal works are unfailingly stylish, illuminating and supported by worthy research.

The Pirates of Penzance, ENO

Topsy Turvy, Mike Leigh’s 1999 film starring Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent, dramatized the fraught working relationship of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan; it won four Oscar nominations (garnering two Academy Awards, for costume and make-up) and is a wonderful exploration of the creative process of bringing a theatrical work to life.

Manitoba Opera: Turandot

There’s little doubt that Puccini’s Turandot is a flawed, illogical fairytale. Yet it continues to resonate today with its undying “love shall conquer all” ethos, where even the most heinous crimes may be forgiven by that which makes the world go ‘round.

Mariachi Opera El Pasado Nunca se Termina Comes to San Diego

On April 25, 2015, San Diego Opera presented it’s second Mariachi opera: El Pasado Nunca se Termina (The Past is Never Finished) by Jose “Pepe” Martinez, Leonard Foglia and Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán.

Antonio Pappano: Royal Opera House Orchestral Concerts

Ambition achieved! Antonio Pappano brought the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House out of the pit and onto the stage, the centre of attention in their own right.

Bedřich Smetana: Dalibor, Barbican Hall

Jiří Bělohlávek’s annual Czech opera series at the Barbican, London, with the BBC SO continued with Bedřich Smetana’s Dalibor.

Orlando Explores Art Without Boundaries

R.B. Schlather’s production of Handel’s Orlando asks the enigmatic question: Where do the boundaries of performance art begin, and where do they end?

The Virtues of Things

A good number of recent shorter operas, particularly those performed in this country, made a stronger impression with their libretti than their scores.

Król Roger, Royal Opera

It has taken almost 89 years for Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger to reach the stage of Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera Celebrates 50 Years of Great Singing

San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.

Hercules vs Vampires: Film Becomes Opera!

In the early sixties, Italian film director Mario Bava was making pictures with male body builders whose well oiled physiques appeared spectacular on the screen.

J. C. Bach: Adriano in Siria

At this start of the year, Classical Opera embarked upon an ambitious project. MOZART 250 will see the company devote part of its programme each season during the next 27 years to exploring the music by Mozart and his contemporaries which was being written and performed exactly 250 years previously.

Bethan Langford, Wigmore Hall

The Concordia Foundation was founded in the early 1990s by international singer and broadcaster Gillian Humphreys, out of her ‘real concern for building bridges of friendship and excellence through music and the arts’.

Tansy Davies: Between Worlds (world premiere)

An opera dealing with — or at least claiming to deal with — the events of 11 September 2001? I suppose it had to come, but that does not necessarily make it any more necessary.

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):