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Subject: Giving Figaro His Due
From: Beckmesserschmitt <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Beckmesserschmitt <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 19 Oct 2011 14:14:56 -0400
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The New York operatic scene was treated to a real rarity last night - a 
conductor functioning in a repertoire he does well.


The ocassion was the North American premier of the 1835 Mercadante opera I 
Due Figaro, which was revived in Salzburg earlier this year - apparently the 
first revival since - but the New York premier was given in our own 
Untersalzburg, the Lower East Side, by the very fine Amore Opera company, 
one of the epigones of the late and lamented Amato Opera. There are a few 
more performances this month, and to cut to the bottom line, you are making 
a big mistake if you miss this, particularly if you give it up for a MET Don 
Giovanni or Barber. Oihme.

I wasn't sure if a small company could handle this, frankly, or, if they could 
even do it with orchestra, but in fact the work got, if not full justice, then 
something far better than rough justice, with  essentially a full chamber 
orchestra (but no timps  or perucssion - is this Mercadante or the economics 
of a small show? Amore had percussion for their Figaro earlier in the week), 
maybe 4 stands of violins and a few stands of lower strings each, full wind 
compliment, and a synth that was used as a continuo. Without a score, I 
couldn't determine how much cutting there may have been - the work runs, as 
performed, roughly 1'40 for the first act and a little over 1 for the second - 
but while I thought I could tell there were some internal snips and perhaps 
some lack of da capos, if there was a lot eliminated otherwise it didn't show in 
what was, seemingly, a very unified performance. A TIMES squib when the 
Salzburg was in preparation suggests that the tenor role for the Count (and 
the soprano for the Countess) are high and florid, but I think if that's the case 
then there was probably some simplification of lines last night. Again, given the 
overall performance, while more might have been more with a Juan Diego (or 
not), what we had was fine on its own terms.

The music has very consciously a Spanish 'flavor' in many of the numbers - 
Mercadante apparently spend some years there -  and while you hear the 
typical so-called (not really) Rossini crescendo and other devices, there are 
elements of the work that would make you think as far back as Gretry 
(L'Amant Jaloux). Romani's libretto is wonderfully witty, and easily contributes 
to the evening as much as the music does. The story takes place several 
decades after Figaro, and it's a comedy of family plots and deliberately 
mistaken (deceived) identity that lacks the social 'bite' of Mozart... all rather 
innocuous good fun without any great 'meaning', the work is charming and 
certainly holds up as an alternative to other light comedies of the period. I am 
not sure on first hearing exactly how distinctive the melodies are and how 
much they would linger with greater familiarity, and if there's any explanation 
for the historical neglect, this may be it, although some of the ensembles are 
quite lovely, particularly in Act II, as well as a great sextet that reminds of 
nothing so much as Cenerentola, while having a rather 'later' harmonic stamp 
than the Rossini.

Gregory Buchalter really is a first rate conductor for this (he's worked all over, 
including at the MET), and while at a very few moments it won't be a surprise 
that string intonation flagged and that there were one or two very slight 
ensemble problems in some of the stretti (this was the first performance), the 
overall instrumental execution was more than good. The chorus was fine (it's 
sung in Italian with supertitles) and while the soloists are obviously somewhat 
variable, no one is 'bad' , and we had a Cherubino, a mezzo, who stood out in 
the major role as excellent. I wouldn't hestitate to identify her if Amore had 
told us who it was, but since the show is double cast, it could be Hayden 
DeWitt or Abigail Fischer, and I incline by the appearance of the photo in the 
playbill to the later. For those who worry about being subjected to singing that 
isn't at the level of $250 a ticket, I will tell you that this was far finer in vocal 
execution, for example, than the series of Balfe operas that were issued on LP 
some years ago, and I think compares favorably with some of the live Opera 
Rara of times gone by. 

The sets and costumes are apparently ecole de Tony (and some, literally, 
inherited), but what was excellent (and again, it's not money that matters, 
but talent) was the direction of Nathan Hull  -witty and not trite - and the 
choreography of Jorge Navarro (far better than most MET choreography, since 
Mr. Navarro understands that opera choreography is supposed to convey 
character).

All first impressions, and rather quickly noted. If I were going to be around, I'd 
go back. Just playing a few more times this month, and worth the time both 
musically and, as just a lot of fun.

Beckmesserschmitt

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