This may not be a golden age for Verdi, but Mozart can be well-served and
tonight's prima of NOZZE DI FIGARO promised much. Some great singers under
the baton of James Levine...yet I was completely unmoved by the visual and
vocal performance. In fact, it was the first time that, in live performance,
I didn't cry at the end of Act IV. Much of the blame goes, I fear, to
director Jonathan Miller and his set designer Peter Davison.
All of the sets are tilted...think Titanic at 12:20 a.m...which lends a
queasy feeling all-around. The sets look like the same designer's
ROSENKAVALIER (seen at NYCO and ENO) in a different order and on a shoestring
budget, with wall supports visible and peeling off-white paint. This lack of
color and realism offsets the beautiful costumes by James Acheson (debut), who
provided an especial coup de theatre when the Countess exits the pavilion in
the last act. (The rich colors and materials were a joy to behold.) There is
no pine grove, just a building off-kilter. Miller keeps everyone moving, but
there was only memorable moment...as Cherubino sings "Non so piu" on the line
that includes "desio," the page covers an embarrassing erection. There was
very little humor in the evening, and I don't mean schtick.
Bryn Terfel reprised his familiar Figaro to audience acclaim. Susanne
Mentzer was a winning Cherubino. Dwayne Croft looked fabulous in long hair
and sounded wonderful. Renee Fleming looked and sounded radiant, garnering
the loudest and longest applause for "Dov'e sono" which was taken at a snail's
pace. The other roles: Wendy White a too-youthful Marcellina, Paul Plishka
as Bartolo, Heinz Zednik a snivelling Basilio, Thomas Hammons as Antonio,
Anthony Laciura as Curzio, and Danielle de Niese (debut) as Barbarina...one of
the Met's Young Artists who was noticeable in this small role.
Much interest was centered on Cecilia Bartoli's assumption of the role of
Susanna. She did not work for me on several levels. I want a Susanna to
soar, which she never did. The voice sounded constricted, and Levine kept the
orchestra down so she could be heard. She was fine playing the shrewish and
comic parts of the role, but there was little heart in all the moments that
need it. The short-breathed, legato-free "Deh vieni" was not a pleasant thing
to these ears, and the ensuing duet with Figaro went for naught.
So, a frustrating evening. At times I found myself wishing for the (god
help us) Ponnelle production that was trashed so that Bartoli could have
another new production. It's a shame that Fleming will only be doing a few
performances, as she was the star of the show. I do not need to go back!
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