MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.


Other Links

Editorial Board

  • Editor - Bill Kenny
    Assistant Webmaster -Stan Metzger
  • Founder - Len Mullenger

Google Site Search


Internet MusicWeb



Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro: Soloists, Orquesta Al Ayre Español. Coro de Ópera de Bilbao. Conductor: Eduardo López Banzo.Palacio Euskalduna de Bilbao. 24.4.2010 (JMI)


New Production  from ABAO (Asociación Bilbaína Amigos de la Ópera) in coproduction with Madrid Teatro Real, Las Palmas Teatro Pérez Galdós and Lithuania National Theatre.


Direction: Emilio Sagi.

Sets: Daniel Bianco.

Costumes: Renata Schussheim.

Lighting: Eduardo Bravo.

Choreography: Nuria Castejón.




Figaro: Lorenzo Regazzo.

Susanna: Ainhoa Garmendia.

Countess. María Bayo.

Count Almaviva: Ludovic Tézier.

Cherubino: Maite Beaumont.

Don Bartolo: Carlos Chausson.

Marcellina: Patricia Bicciré.

Barbarina: Itziar de Unda.

Basilio: Jon Plazaola.

Antonio. Alberto Arrabal.

Don Curzio: José Manuel Montero.

Production Picture © E Moreno Esquibel

Mozart comes back to Bilbao with Le Nozze di Figaro. This time we have a wonderful stage production, a more than questionable musical interpretation and uneven vocal casting. The stage production is the same one premiered at Teatro Real last season and my review of that is here. To this, I would only add that Emilio Sagi’s production has worked extremely well again: the Euskalduna stage though , places the sets a little further backward which does not help the projection of voices.

Once again we had the Orchestra Al Ayre Español with its director Eduardo López Banzo in the pit. In recent years they have performed both in Così Fan Tutte and Giulio Cesare. On those occasions it was clear that orchestra and conductor were perfectly suited to Baroque opera, while in Mozart things were not quite at the same level. The orchestra showed its quality in all three performances, although the sound, particularly in the brass section, is quite not what we usually hear in Mozart.

The biggest problem with the musical interpretation in this Le Nozze had to do with conductor Eduardo López Banzo. He is one of the leading Baroque music specialists in Spain, where he is quite well known especially in concert performances. In Mozart and in stage performances however,  things sometimes do not work out as well for him: that was true for Così Fan Tutte two years ago and was repeated this time in Bilbao. López Banzo is not an experienced opera conductor outside of the Baroque repertoire and his cueing for the artists on stage was not particularly careful, and occasionally almost non-existent, which was a serious problem in  the ensembles. Bilbao is well known too for its short rehearsal periods which always need good and experienced conductors for performances to work out well. This was not really the case this time.


It is fair to say that López Banzo’s reading was rather uneven overall. There were excessively lively tempos at many points in the opera, while at others things worked much better. In general though, the performance  was short on lightness and sparkle – so to say – something that needs rather more than simply fast tempi. To be fair, the height of the pit, coupled with the placement of the production on the stage, caused a remarkable lack of balance between orchestra and singers, who were almost inaudible at time. Additionally, Eduardo López Banzo was conducting this opera for the first time and his eyes were more in the score than on stage.  To his credit however, he did offer a complete version of the opera, restoring the traditional cuts to the arias for Marcellina and Basilio.

The excellent Bilbao Opera Chorus gave one their poorest performances in years. Obviously, they are not used to being directed by a conductor who paid so little attention to them and we were lucky that the chorus has so little to do in this opera.  Vocally there were both highlights and shadows and sadly, Figaro was the weakest member of the whole cast. Mozart one is of the most frequently performed opera composers worldwide and there are a good number of interesting interpreters of his music available just now.  Lorenzo Regazzo did not make a particularly good impression in his last visit to Bilbao as Don Alfonso in Così Fan Tutte and unfortunately, things were no better with his Figaro. He was  monotonous on stage and weak as a singer.

On the other hand, Ainhoa Garmendia was a great Susanna from beginning to end. I believe that it would be difficult to find a better interpreter than she is, for the character. She was a true model for the role in Barcelona last season and in Bilbao she was simply excellent once again. She was at her very best in her aria "Deh vieni non tardar" where she did receive excellent collaboration from López Banzo.


María Bayo sang the Countess with a Susanna - like voice. I can understand that at 50 any soprano might feel unequal to playing a sparky young woman,  but age itself is not a qualification for singing the Countess. Ms Bayo offered a worrying "Porgi amor", improving a lot in "Dove sono", but the wonderful duet that Mozart wrote for two sopranos is not intended for two light voices. We lost much of the required contrast between them without which most of the impact was diluted.

Ludovic Tezier was a sound Count Almaviva, excellent in his aria "Hai gia vinta la causa". There were moments where I missed more intenaity in his recitatives, but there is no doubt that he is one of the best Counts around at the moment.  Maite Beaumont made her debut in Bilbao and produced an excellent Cherubino. Her voice is not especially large, but it is beautiful and she is an outstanding singer, at her very best at "Non so piú".

Carlos Chausson was  luxury casting for Don Bartolo, not only for his interpretation of "La Vendetta", but for all the meaning that he gave to the recitatives, including – why not? - his completely silent performance during Basilio’s aria in the final act. Patrizia Bicciré’s Marcellina was almost inaudible in the first Act, but she was good while singing "Il Capro è la capretta” Jon Plazaola played the character of Basilio, including his restored aria, and Itziar de Undar made an excellent Barbarina, full of freshness and vocal quality. Alberto Arrabal was a good Antonio and José Manuel Montero did his duty as Don Curzio.

There was an almost sold out house. The final reception was warm for all the artists, more so than is usual at a premiere in Bilbao, with the loudest applause I can remember, sprinkled with some cheers for Ainhoa Garmendia, Ludovic Tezier and Maite Beaumont. Emilio Sagi and his team were also cheered. There will be a further performance with a cast of young singers on May 1st.

José M Irurzun


Back to Top                                                   Cumulative Index Page