Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro|
Actors: Schrott, Persson, Finlay, Pappano, Royal Opera House
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
Wonderfully theatrical, physical and earthy
Bob Epstein | Minneapolis | 05/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A David McVicar production practically guarantees creativity and excitement and this maverick director's 2006 Royal Opera Figaro magnificently fulfills the bill. While it's true this Figaro has several innovations - updating the time to 1830s France, some men in top hats, servants all around (like in his Manon, eavesdropping), a strong emphasis on sexuality and the Count's violent nature - what truly makes the Figaro memorable is the synergy, the chemistry McVicar has brought out in the acting and vocalizing, and in the pit from conductor Anthony Pappano. This is simply the best of the half dozen DVDs I have seen of this masterpiece.
McVicar has displayed how successful he is in this regard in his compelling Rigoletto and Manon (I haven't seen his Magic Flute and Giulio Casare and I had mixed feelings about his Carmen). Here too, the ensemble, the interrelationships between characters, the personalities of the protagonists are so strongly etched. This is the most theatrical, physical, earthy Figaro I have ever seen.
In his notes to the DVD, McVicar downplays performers' emphasis in Figaro on "rococo charm," but if not rococo, this production has no lack of charm when called for. And a Figaro without charm is not a complete Figaro. Conversely, McVicar's ample toughness and darkness are also appropriate, since the opera has many moments of seriousness, duplicity, mistaken identity, confusion and hearts being broken.
There are many moments to savor in this production, and McVicar's rethink of certain events is largely treasurable. The sarcasm between Susannah and Marcellina in Act one doesn't drip it flies, it pours. Delicious! Their interaction at the end of Act 2 I've never seen more powerfully done. The servants overhearing a good deal of the opera's proceedings lends a most interesting and appealing aspect to this mad day, a sense that the Count's time, his control, his power, are coming to an end. So too do the very noticeable blemishes on the walls of the Count's chamber, a wonderful touch as to the decay, the crumbling of his world.
Erwin Schrott is a dark and sensual Figaro, powerful and more rebellious when called for (Beaumarchais' play was indeed revolutionary) than any other I have seen, and he sings beautifully. Miah Persson cuts a lovely swath and brings out all the charm and strength of Susanna. Gerald Finley is a nasty, dominating Count, his baritone richly resplendent (interestingly, he looks a lot like Schubert here). Rinat Shaham's Cherubino is utterly compelling with both a kittenish charm and a masculine presence. These four command the stage yet interact superbly with the others.
The strong voiced Countess of Dorothea Roschmann has many lovely moments although on occasion her voice can become stressed and turn hooty. Philip Langridge's wildly creative and funny Basillio practically steals the show in Act 4, if his aria can ever do that (as the Witch in the Metropolitan Opera's simulcast of Hansel and Gretel, he also brought a wonderful daring and fun wickedness to that role). Jonathan Veira's voice is fine and his wonderfully bulging eyes have to be seen in Bartolo's Act 1 "la vendetta."
Pappano brings out ample does of vitality and warmth in the pit from his Royal Opera forces, bending generously to his singers wishes when needed and giving a masterful interpretation. He is an ideal match for McVicar's creativity, his full-of-life production.
Act 4 is notoriously difficult to bring off totally, with characters in a garden supposedly being hidden and overhearing others without being seen. Few productions totally convey this and McVicar's doesn't entirely either. A few leaves falling and some trees don't establish a garden when there are indoor items - tables, chairs, partitions, still present on stage. This takes away from plausibility. But Jonathan Haswell's cameras do a good deal to alleviate this problem and make the interactions fairly secretive and compelling. The Jean-Pierre Ponnell/Karl Bohm film, not actually a very good Figaro, nonetheless has the best Act 4 scenery wise, with a full garden and appropriate hiding areas.
When I want to watch a Figaro now, I will turn to this performance. My previous favorites (1994 Glyndebourne with Haitink, Finley (as Figaro), Fleming and Hagley, and 1994 Lyon with Paolo Olmi, Furlanetto, Szymtka and Watson) are excellent but this takes precedence, for its theatricality, vision and superb acting and ensemble.
Another inventive production from David McVicar
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 05/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One strength of this Covent Garden production is that it puts equal emphasis on acting, stage movement, and singing (which only works when the latter is of high quality which it is here). Credit goes to David McVicar's directing for successfully combining all these features. He even uses the overture to highlight the class distinctions of the characters, as servants go about doing their work (and comically avoiding their work) in perfect time to the score.
Erwin Schrott, as Figaro, has a rich and deep baritone voice that literally booms out, but is flexible enough for the lyric demands of Mozart. He combines this with great acting. In fact, such is his focus on acting that he tends to speak his recitative. It sounds strange to the ear at first, but he has such a larger-than-life charismatic stage presence that, when combined with his superb singing, the speaking simply becomes Schrott's way of making the role of Figaro his own.
Miah Persson (Susanna) possesses a beautiful soprano voice, but she's not a natural comedienne and doesn't have a strong stage presence. The latter is only a problem because Susanna is the dramatic link to all the characters (another way of saying that she's really the star of the opera). I thought Persson was not quite up to the task. Mozart gave Susanna only one stand-and-deliver aria: "Deh vieni." Persson gives a beautifully nuanced performance of this exquisite song of hope and longing. She deserves the close-up camerawork she's given throughout the aria.
This is the second DVD featuring Dorothea Roschmann as The Countess (Salzburg's 2006 being the other). As always, her creamy soprano voice is rich and expressive. In particular, her "Porgi, amor" is performed with great pathos and is deeply moving.
Gerald Finley is excellent as The Count, appropriately brutish and dense at the same time. His baritone voice has deepened and matured since he played Figaro in the Glyndebourne production from 1994. His voice harmonizes beautifully with Roschmann's. Their work together in Act II is a highlight of the production.
The supporting cast is excellent, led by Rinat Shaham who sings Cherubino's two arias with exuberance and the sweetness of youth.
The major drawback to this DVD is uneven sound quality. It must have resulted from the placement of the microphones around the stage. There are times in arias and ensemble pieces when voices predominate but then suddenly fade away and all you can hear is the orchestra. It's very frustrating to listen to when this happens.
My favorite "Marriage of Figaro" on DVD remains the Theatre du Chatelet production conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, featuring Byrn Terfel as Figaro and Alison Hagley as Susanna. This is a matter of taste, but I prefer the more lighthearted approach of the Chatelet production, focusing as it does on the farcical nature of the plot (mistaken identities, etc.). This Covent Garden production focuses on the sexual tensions in the plot, resulting to a large extent from the characters' class distinctions. For example, Susanna's and Marcellina's brilliant first act duet, "Via resti servita " takes on a downright hostile tone in this production. I prefer the hilarious "trash talking" version in the Chatelet production. (Alison Hagley remains my favorite Susanna on DVD; she also plays the role in the Glyndebourne production from 1994 that features Gerald Finley as Figaro.)
I highly recommend this Covent Garden production and understand why many have given five stars to McVicar's more serious interpretation of this great opera."
3 hours of solid entertainment and wonderful music
Karen Henriksen | Copenhagen, Denmark | 05/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"ETA: Thank you, Amazon, for clearing up the review mess.
Wonderful, funny and very well sung Figaro. Only small quibble is the sound quality which comes and goes. There are notable singer 'fall-outs' in act one and the act three sextet is slightly marred by a Curzio that is much too loud. It's not enough for me to subtract any stars from this review, though.
Schrott and Finley make the best pair of Figaro/Conte I've ever heard (or seen *ahem*) and I must admit to really liking Schrott's unorthodox way of singing. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it ends up working very well for him. This guy is just so energetic! Persson's Susanna is deliciously feisty and 'take-charge' - the character can often end up getting on my nerves - this one doesn't. Röschmann is a matter of taste, I think. She can definitely sing, but I'm not a big fan of the sound itself.
All in all this is one of if not *the* best Figaros I've seen or heard (despite the flaws in the audio) - in no small part thanks to David McVicar's wonderful stage directions - this guy really knows how to squeeze out every ounce of character from his ensemble. I've seen local and - to me - familiar singers (at the Copenhagen Opera) do things on stage that I would never have thought possible - if they've got it, he'll get it out of them."
Discovering new, non traditional and hidden dimensions of a
Francesco Alvarez | 05/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before buying this DVD I was a bit reluctant of adding another version of this opera to my collection. There are far too many versions of "Le Nozze" on DVD, some of them remarkably good and some others quite bad and unbereable. However this new version of Covent Garden with the great David McVicar as stage director (remember Glyndebourne`s Giulio Cesare and Covent Garden`s Rigoletto) was very tempting for me to check. At the end I was not dissapointed at all, not only because the clever and dynamic staging of David MacVicar but also because the talented cast that sings beautifully and also knows how to act. Musical and stage direction combine perfectly well to convey the feeling that you are discovering new, non traditional and hidden dimensions of a well known traditional opera. It is particularly interesting the behind of the scenes in this DVD where David McVicar comments that all the action on stage is encoded in Mozart`s music. Indeed, once more (like I previously commented in the case of Glyndebourne`s Giulio Cesare) at times you get the feeling that the music was composed after the staging and no the other way around. To listen at this new version of Le Nozze is a great experience. Erwin Schrott`s voice is a strange melange of darkness and sweetness. Dorothea Roschman is great as always (I am a big fan of this soprano so probably my judgment is a bit biased here). Persson and Finlay are remarkably good as well in their respective roles as Susana (sweet and strong at the same time) and the Count Almaviva (mischievous and foolish at the same time). There is a great chemistry among the singers who are (obviously) having a great and relaxed fun on stage. Their characters are completely flesh out, something quite unusual in the opera world. This is not another version of Mozart`s Le Nozze di Figaro, this is a new multidimensional version of this traditional and beloved opera. Highly recommended indeed."