Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le Nozze Di Figaro
- Opera buffa in four acts (1786)
Susanna, maid to the Countess - Patrizia Ciofi (soprano); Figaro,
manservant to the Count - Giorgio Surian (bass-baritone); Count Almaviva
- Lucio Gallo (baritone); Countess Almaviva - Eteri Gvazava (soprano);
Cherubino, a young buck around the palace - Marina Comparato (mezzo);
Marcellina, a mature lady owed a debt by Figaro - Giovanna Donadini
(soprano); Don Basilio, a music-master and schemer - Sergio Bertocchi
(tenor); Don Bartolo - Eduardo Chama (bass); Barbarina, Eleonore Contucci
(soprano); Antonio, the gardener - Gianluca Ricci
Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Florence/Zubin Mehta
rec. live, Teatro Communale, Florence, October 2003
Stage Director: Jonathan Miller
Set Designer: Peter J Davison Costume Designer: Sue Blane Director
of the Stage Production: Massimo Teoldi
Video Director: Maria Paola Longobardo
Sound Format: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1. DTS 5.1.
Picture Format: 16:9.
Subtitle Languages: Italian (original language), English, German,
ARTHAUS MUSIK 107 277
[2 DVDs: 181:00]
Mozart’s Le Nozze Di Figaro is widely regarded as among
the greatest operas ever penned. Designated opera buffa, it is
based on the second of Beaumarchais’ trilogy of plays set around
Count Almaviva. It reflects a superb collaboration between composer
and librettist, in this case Lorenzo Da Ponte, a man surely unique in
the annals of music. Propitiously, he arrived in Vienna at the turn
of 1781-82. This was a year before the Emperor restored Italian Opera
to the Imperial Theatre, the Burgtheater. The Emperor appointed Da Ponte
Poet to the Imperial Theatres thus giving him easy access to
his august and all powerful employer.
In relatively liberal Paris, Beaumarchais’ play was, for many
years, considered too licentious and socially revolutionary for the
stage. In ultra-restrictive Vienna it was viewed similarly, even after
the more liberal Emperor Joseph II had come to power on the death of
his mother. Da Ponte used his access to the Emperor to get permission
for Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaroto go ahead.
He achieved this on the basis of it being an opera and not the already
banned play. This necessitated some of the more political and revolutionary
aspects of the play being toned down, particularly an inflammatory act
five monologue. This was replaced by Figaro’s act four warning
about women which greatly pleased the Emperor.
The present production was originally staged by Jonathan Miller, in
Florence, a decade before this filming. He is shown as Director whilst
Massimo Teoldi is identified as Director of the Stage Production. Does
this imply that Miller came back to refresh his own production or that
in his absence Teoldi acted as what should be termed, I suggest, revival
director? The booklet essay sheds no light on this issue nor does the
Florence Opera web site. Whilst on the niggles, the booklet cast-lists
perpetuate the errors of the earlier issue on the TDK label in showing
Barbarina as sung by Carlo Bossi. In Italy Carlo is a male name and
in fact he sings the excessively stuttering notary Don Curzio, whilst
the role of Barbarina is delightfully taken by Eleonore Contucci, complete
with the appropriate delightful physical denials of masculinity. The
production is costumed in period. The set for the first three acts is
in period and wholly appropriate to the plot and its setting in the
Almaviva household. The disappointment is the act four Garden Scene.
Large concrete pillars are the substitutes for any shrubs or trees and
these barely conceal the people that are supposed to be absent or incognito.
In this Spartan setting there is no chance of a realistic dénouement.
Whilst Miller invests the basis of his production with the overt sexuality
of the play, as the composer and librettist intended, many of those
details are not realised in this casting. The rather turgid Figaro of
Giorgio Surian looks somewhat older than Giovanna Donadini who is revealed
as his mother Marcellina. Surian certainly tries to project the revolutionary
side of Figaro, even eyeballing the Count, but as Susanna’s intended
he fails abysmally. I guess she might have had a more interesting first
night of married life with the more virile-sounding and younger-looking
Count, sung with good tone and acted well by Lucio Gallo. He has gone
onto greater things since 2003 and his acting and vocal projection here
is a big plus. Of the rest of the men, Eduardo Chama as Bartolo looks
and initially acts somewhat geriatric. He sings his aria well and gets
a bit more enthusiastic about his lot, even frisky, when marriage to
his sometime lover is scheduled alongside that of Figaro and Susanna.
Sergio Bertocchi is suitably smarmy as Don Basilio while Gianluca Ricci
as Antonio the gardener overdoes the drunkard tipsy bits. Neither Basilio
nor Marcellina get their act four arias.
Overall the ladies are a better kettle of fish than the men. Patrizia
Ciofi as Susanna is not the pert dolly servant of many productions,
being significantly better costumed and even with headgear. She rather
overdoes the facial reactions with the furrowed brow overworked. Her
singing however is a delight, including tasteful decorations to her
act four aria. Eteri Gvazava as Countess Almaviva, and the only non-Italian
in the cast, could have done with a few of Cioffi’s facial expressions.
She manages to portray more of the character’s anguish and pain
in the last two acts including a well pointed and phrased Dove Sono.
Whilst looking a little feminine in the face Marina Comparato is a star
Cherubino in the singing stakes alongside her well acted portrayal.
Eleonore Contucci is a worldly-wise Barbarina as befits the role.
The colour of the whole production and costumes reproduces superbly
on my Blu-Ray player and the sound is excellent too. On the rostrum
Zubin Mehta takes a distinctly languid approach. It would have benefited
from some of the brio and vitality evident on Pappano’s recording
of the 2006 production at London’s Covent Garden (Opus Arte OA0942D/OABD7033D),
which is at the top of my list among the many recordings of this ever-popular
great operatic masterpiece.
Robert J Farr