Mozart's Marriage of Figaro is a comedy whose dark undertones explore the blurred boundaries between dying feudalism and emerging Enlightenment. Among dozens of fine Figaros on CD and DVD, few are as finely sung as this on... more »e, filmed in 1976 to a soundtrack recorded the previous year. Herman Prey's Figaro is admirably sung in a firm baritone and aptly characterized. So too, is his antagonist, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the Count perpetually frustrated by the scheming wiles of Figaro and Susanna, here the perky Mirella Freni, who sings and acts like a dream. The Countess is creamy-voiced Kiri Te Kanawa, and the Cherubino, Maria Ewing, looks just like the horny, teenaged page she's supposed to be. The all-star leads are complemented by worthy supporting singers, the Vienna Philharmonic at the top of its form, and the experienced Mozartian, Karl Böhm conducting a stylishly fleet performance. The problematic visuals though, don't match the musical attributes of this Figaro. Director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle says film techniques of editing and special effects permit added musical and interpretive components. So we get nervously irrelevant camera movements, distorted close-ups, jump-cuts that place singers in impossible places during arias, and--most distracting of all--arias on the soundtrack while the "singer" stares close-mouthed at walls, ceilings, and furnishings. Try Te Kanawa's beautifully sung "Porgi amor" to see how this distracting technique subverts the music, rather than "complementing" it. Of course, this may not bother many but others will prefer to listen to the glorious soundtrack and give Ponnelle's directorial hubris a pass. --Dan Davis« less
Operaman! | Chicago, IL United States | 06/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"and a true dearth in opera presentations today to realize how ingenious Jean Pierre Ponnelle was. DG can be thanked for reissuing this lively film version of Mozart's classic with energy, excitement, dramatic tension and comedy, all without distorting Mozart or DaPonte's intentions or presenting a lot of whack-a-mole comedy or confusing "updating". Nonetheless, this is far from a stand-up-and-sing traditional staging. The direction brings an abundance of clarity to the plot and situations (aka, the Act Two finale). The singers taking part were just as dedicated to the drama as the music, a true ensemble performance, where no individual was doing a "star turn". It can be argued that this film version is not truthful to a true staged operatic presentation, and I can see the point of that argument. I feel Ponnelle's film can be enjoyed on its own as a unique entertainment, and I think you will too."
Henk van Rensburg | Centurion, Gauteng South Africa | 06/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A studio production, shot on film for German television. Subtitles are provided in various languages: the English one is useful and accurate, though inevitably some of Da Ponte's nuances are lost. The image is crisp and pleasing (unlike the flatly-lit, saturated Ponnelle "Carmina Burana"). The sound hardly betrays its age: a relief after the ragged sound on the Losey "Don Giovanni" DVD. The recitatives have a drier acoustic -- recorded on set, perhaps? The singers are all on top form, and near ideal. (Maria Ewing as Cherubino makes a convincing adolescent boy, even in close-up.) Böhm knows how to point every aspect of this wondrously varied score. Basilio and Marcellina lose their Act 4 arias. Ponnelle's direction shows insight, imagination and meticulous planning. There is only one serious miscalculation, when he has the Count strike the Countess in the Act 2 finale. The production as a whole is funny and exuberant and serious and clever (hints of the imminent revolution are not labored) and never vulgar. A feast for the eyes, the ears, and the mind."
Best Figaro Video!
operamaryc | DIAMOND BAR, CA United States | 08/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is surely the best performance of Figaro available on video. The cast is just about perfect for it's time or even considering those who perform it today very successfully. The Glyndebourne production is also excellent, however, the lushness of the sets and costumes enhance this performance over the other. Fleming is a great countess but so was Kiri! Looking at either of them, you wonder how they could have settled for a dolt like the Count! Highly recommend this verion as one of the very, if not the very best available. You will watch this many times! Great music sung by a great cast! What more could you want? Considering what is on TV these days - build your video collection and you won't be sorry!!! This one is full of fun!"
anniemnm | Rome, Italy | 04/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a romp! This version of "Marriage of Figaro" has managed the unthinkable: I now believe that Figaro is Mozart's greatest opera, not "Don Giovanni" -- believe me, this took work! Prey is absolutely magnificent, handling both ends of the wide musical range of this role extremely well. His acting was wonderful, which was not at all unusual in this production. Maria Ewing is an adorable Cherubino and Freni is absolutely wonderful as the earthy and fun Susanna. Te Kanawa is a bit stiff, but it is only noticeable here and there -- partially because the other pricipals seem so at ease in their roles. DFD as the count (apparently his signature role from what I've read...) is impeccable. Add to all of this wonderful acting and singing a beautifully filmed setting, and you have bliss!"
The Best Ever
Lyndon B Page | Kent United Kingdom | 02/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was asked once, what example of man's achievements on earth would you propose to an alien visitor in order to enlighten the species? I replied 'The Complete Works of Mozart.......but that would be boasting'! It is with the same confidence that I can recommend this video. I loved the cinematic approach which greatly enhanced the drama and comedy in equal measure. The cast is the very best one could have assembled in a single production and Maria Ewing's Cherubino is disturbingly captivating. Visually it is stunning yet it is the sound which dominates. Karl Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic are perhaps the very finest Mozartians. The music, both powerful and heartrending, is brilliantly played the libretto exquisitely sung and all superbly recorded.
It is the most treasured in my collection and I would recommend it to novice or expert. I just wish it was available on DVD........ at least that wouldn't wear out?"