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Reviews

W. A. Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
07 Jan 2009

Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

This performance of Le Nozze di Figaro, recorded live at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in June 2004, prompts much admiration for René Jacobs, its conductor.

W. A. Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

Pietro Spagnoli (Count), Annette Dash (Countess), Rosemary Joshua (Susanna), Luca Pisaroni (Figaro), Angelika Kirchschlager (Cherubino), Sophie Pondjiclis (Marcellina), Alessandro Svab (Antonio), Antonio Abete (Bartolo), Enrico Facini (Don Basilio), Paulette Courtin (Barbarina) & Serge Goubioud (Don Curzio). Concerto Köln & Choeur du Théâtre des Champs Elysées, René Jacobs (cond.)

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His CD sets of the Mozart/Da Ponte operas earned widespread admiration on their release, and the fresh, energetic approach on those recordings can be heard here as well. Furthermore, his booklet essay is a model combination of fascinating detail about his conducting choices and stylish writing.

In the end, however, a DVD has to be judged in its entirety, and when the dull set (there's only one, really) and mostly routine singing are taken into account, only the most devoted fans of conductor Jacobs would find this particular Nozze of much appeal.

Stage director Jean-Louis Martinoty claims to be working (according to an occasionally incomprehensible booklet note translated by John Tittensor) "in an «artificially» realistic world." Working with the sets of Hans Schavernoch and costumes of Sylvie De Segonzac, Martinoty presents a Nozze in familiar dress and typical stage movement, staged before a bewildering series of art reproductions, framed and tilted this way and that. The result has neither the familiar tug of realism nor the insightful edge of artifice. Instead, it simply seems as if funds for a real set could not be found.

Jacobs' cast has one familiar assumption, that of Angelika Kirchschlager's Cherubino. Your reviewer dislikes to be ungentlemanly, but Ms. Kirchschlager no longer has the advantage of youth in adopting an adolescent male persona. Thankfully, her voice retains its appeal. Pietro Spagnoli's Count remains a cold, arrogant lout even in his plea for forgiveness, making one wonder why Annete Dasch's Countess fights so hard to win back his love. Spagnoli's voice at least has an appropriately self-satisfied fullness. Dasch's intonation slackens a bit too often to make her Countess a success. She and Rosemary Joshua's Susanna offer a muted letter duet, but maybe Jacob's relatively swift tempo also takes some of the beauty from the music. Luca Pisaroni's Figaro comes off best; a big, handsome voice and an easy-going natural manner make him an attractive stage figure. The minor characters are adequately performed in this full version of the opera (which makes for a very long act four). If only director Martinoty hadn't asked Don Curzio (Serge Goubiboud) to affect an exaggerated stutter, to little comic effect.

To hear Jacobs' take on Mozart's great score, the CD, better sung, earns a stronger recommendation than this visually and vocally bland DVD.

Chris Mullins

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