Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro|
Actors: Anna Netrebko, Dorothea Roschmann, Ildebrando d'Arcangelo, Bo Skovhus, Christine Schafer
Directors: Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Claus Gouh
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Mozart at his most depressing
J. H. Gaulard | London United Kingdom | 05/13/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"As soon as the Wiener Philharmoniker play the first bars of the Overture, we know that we are going to be in for a looooong evening. Nikolaus Harnoncourt's tempi are extremely slow and will remain so for the next three hours and sixteen minutes (excluding credits and curtain calls). This is a good ten minutes more than his previous efforts in Zurich (on DVD) and in Amsterdam (on CD). It is about 15 minutes more than the average performance, 25 minutes more than Gardiner or Mackerras.
This in itself, would be nothing special if Harnoncourt was able to inhabit his tempi, to draw meanings to them. Unfortunately, he doesn't. The reason for this lies in the fact that the music does not really lend itself to "contemplative" visions. "Le Nozze" is first and foremost a comedy, the pace is supposed to be reasonably brisk on stage: Nozze is not Parsifal and the big risk of a slower, more dramatic approach means that the piece is deprived of its meaning: your turn a slice of life into a meaningless, inanimate musical object, beautiful at times but completely devoid of life. The big finales at the end of each Act (pick any: I, II, III or IV) will be the saddest example of this static musical direction. The music does not move, the musical material remains motionless, and ultimately one loses interest in front of such a stubborn view of "Le Nozze di Figaro".
By conducting "Le Nozze" this way, Harnoncourt lends a sympathetic hand to the production of Claus Guth. An extremely good, profound stage director, Guth is much more at ease with tragedy than comedy (Fliegende in Bayreuth, Zaide/Adama in this M22 collection). He therefore turns Nozze upside down and offers us a grim, petit bourgeois world that is unilaterally grey and evolving around a big staircase - Claus Guth LOVES staircases. In this Ibsenian, Bergmanian world, the Count is a pathetic middle-aged bourgeois cheating on his wife, the countess a cheated wife with no nobility whatsoever, and these three hours are just an isolated, one even feels almost a common routine in the uninteresting lives of these extremely unsympathetic characters.
One feels that the cast has been chosen with this musical/staging project in mind. It evolves around the dark-toned Susanna of Anna Netrebko, great sounding but Susanna is not Violetta: however, she fits perfectly Harnoncourts's and Guth's designs. Dorothea Roeschmann has a big voice, but there is no nobility in her Countess: listen to Te Kanawa or Fleming, and you'll know what I mean. Again, in light of her position in the "concept", it makes sense. The Count of Bo Skovhus is very tired. A pronounced vibrato has invaded the voice and his is simply not nice to hear, but this is again in line with the concept. Schaeffer was very successful even if she is not my cup of tea: I prefer a mezzo-soprano Cherubino. Selig barks, McLaughlin is a fun Marcellina. The only one who refuses to play Harnoncourt's game is Ildebrando d'Arcangelo. He is very often ahead of the orchestra but he has a beautiful voice and he tries to impose his conception of the character at all costs, despite the conductor and despite the staging.
Brian Large directs the video: the numerous close-ups on Miss Netrebko - even when she is not singing are extremely annoying after a while.
Let's face it: there are not a lot of good reasons to own this Figaro. I'll stick to Haitink/Fleming in Glyndebourne (NVC Arts). Deutsche Grammophon has two very good performances in its catalogue: a film by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (Prey/Freni/ Boehm) and a very good performance by Gardiner and Terfel. Harnoncourt should always be commanded for his sense of experiment and his permanent willingness to take risks, but here the experiment blows in his (and our) face. Avoid.
Shotgun Marriage of Figaro
David K. Leavitt | Beverly Hills,California | 06/20/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Much appreciation to Susan Eisenberg, Toni Bernhart, and I.H. Gaulard all of whom are obviously knowledgeable and sophisticated opera buffs. Because I am addicted to Anna Netrebko, I bought the set anyway. Alas it was as disappointing as described in the three reviews: the sets were sparce and ugly - Act One looked like a great prison cell. The characters were so much in black: wrong color for a comedy. There was hardly a smile anywhere. Where in the world did they come up with the feathered, mute, cherub dancing around the screen? The whole effect was as sombre as a Mass.
Poor Countess! For her entry she is all in black; severe; plain as a shoe; and also without any sparkle or smile. No wonder the Count's eye was wandering - not that he was any maiden's dream: he looked totally dissolute, dull and boring.
Of course, this has little to do with the voices. D'Arcangelo, Netrebko and Roschmann sang beautifully. Skovhus sang passably but not memorably. But, so what? The orchestra was dull, slow, and often with loose ensemble (The Vienna Philharmonic, no less!)
Over the years, I have often been disappointed with Nicholas Harnoncourt - even in "the old days" when he concentrated on distorting the baroque. There have been a few good recordings, but this is a real ringer.
Even if you are a Netrebko enthusiast, this is pretty much a waste of your money.
Not your Grandma's Figaro
Magyar | The Universe | 07/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is not your grandma's Figaro. At first I was surprised, then taken aback, then intrigued and then completely mesmerized. It's Figaro meets Psycho. The pacing is slower, more deliberate and the whole tone and atmosphere darker and more intense. And in the end, I think it works. The whole theme of this production is the maddening power of Eros (here portrayed by an extraneous character- a seductive non -speaking/singing young man dressed in school boy uniform with cherubic wings running around trying to manipulate all the characters) locked in a battle with "Love." In the end "Love" triumphs. (except for poor Cherubino who throughout the opera is portrayed as a poor young thing totally defenseless against the power of Eros--in the end he's reduced to a zombie). The singing and the technical quality I thought were first rate (It's a very recent production so it utilizes the latest in live sound recording..not like some of the older productions where the sound drifts when the singer moves in and out of microphone range).I think if you are not familiar with the more standard productions of Figaro, you'll have a hard time with this production, both in following the plot and understanding all the new meanings and interpretations that are being created. But if you already have seen a number of standard productions, I'd thing you may enjoy this, if not just for its strangeness. I doubt this production will ever replace the more standard production, but it sure made for an unexpected and interesting evening of opera."
A total and utter disappointment
Erik Aleksander Moe | Oslo, Norway | 07/30/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I have collected so many different recordings of this most wonderful opera. It is so full of fun and life to make me feel so good. Some of my favorite recordings are conducted by Bohm (I have four with him and all are wonderful), Walter, Giulini and Rosbaud. Bohm had a tendency to be a little slow but that didn't matter much because everything made sense and was in harmony, and was so much fun in addition.
I had heard a couple of excerpts of this recording, which is also available on CD, and I knew it was slow but I had no idea until after I bought it just how slowly it was conducted. The slow tempi were so annoying and many times, especially in the recitatives, everything stopped. The harmony of the music were so many times simply destroyed by Harnoncourt because of the his changes from really slow tempo to even slower and to yet even slower tempo. The whole opera became almost depressing to listen to because of the extreme seriousness that was created because of the tempi. The playful and wonderfully melodic music of Mozart was gone! Bohm could be slow but you could feel that his tempi made sense and the fun of the piece was not sacrificed because of this.
Even though I have listened to the opera so many times the forth act finale always gets me. The fun when Figaro pretends that Susanna is the Countessa when he is making love to her in front the Count and seeing his reaction, and the wonderfully tender and forgiving music when the Count asks the Countess for forgiveness. All of this is simply not there in this recording by Harnoncourt. I personally feel that a good recording of Le Nozze di Figaro should be both funny and elegant. This one is neither.
Another fact that irritated me was that a harpsichord was used instead of a fortepiano (or a piano) in the recitatives in addition to that the recitatives were seldom accompanied by the harpsichord. It was just there to punctuate the sentences.
On to the solists. Anna Netrebko and Ildebrando d'Arcangelo, as Susanna and Figaro, were really excellent. The two of them were so good together to almost merit buying this DVD, almost. Bo Skovhus, as the Count, was not good at all. He really struggled all the time to keep a good tone. He was really wobbly. Dorothea Roschmann, as the Countess, sang well but dramatically she was even worse than Skovhus. She was definitely not a noble woman in her singing. She sounded much too common for a Countess. Christine Schafer, as Cherobino, was ok but nothing more.
Last but not least were the really horrible staging. Everything was staged around a giant staircase. The color palette that was used just added to the depressing view of the whole opera. This goes for the costumes as well. THE most annoying thing about the whole production was the addition of the cherub who just danced around and interacted with the solists without interacted with the characters. When d'Arcangelo was singing his first aria in act 1 the cherub was blindfolding him. When Skovhus sang his act 3 aria the cherub was sitting on one of Skovhus' shoulders which added even more stress on his voice because he had to carry the actor in addition to holding his balance and singing at the same time.
The addition of the cherub was just an annoyance and just made me like the whole performance was bad along with the really bad and inconsistent conducting. I realize that Harnoncourt has another view of the opera and score than what is generally performed, but this is well beyond just another view. When all the charm, fun, harmony and elegance of the whole piece is gone because of this view I would say that he should stay away from this opera. And when he says that everyone before him has conducted the opera wrongly I just say "What arrogance!!!"."