Tuesday, November 13, 2012

And Speaking of Marthaler – Helene Schneiderman is Marcellina

HS (left) as Flora, lookin' butch.
Mezzo-soprano Helene Schneiderman is a Jersey girl who trained in the U.S. then started her professional career in Germany. A member of the Staatstheater Stuttgart since 1984, she sings mezzo repertoire around the world. Probably her most widely viewed performance is her appearance in the thankless role of Flora in the DVD of Willy Decker's Traviata (the one with the red dress)–particularly thankless here, as it's very hard to find her in the sea of dark men's suits!

HS out of drag.
Marcellina's aria is usually cut from Le Nozze di Figaro. It's not a bad aria; in fact it's quite good, and pretty showy. It's theme also fits well in Act 4. Mozart and da Ponte were not just adding filler here. But some Marcellinas have a little too much vocal heft to handle the aria's intricacies. Plus many directors and/or conductors feel that this aria (and Basilio's) slow the action down too much as we are steamrolling towards the Act 4 finale. 

One thing I have discovered lately is I like theater about theater, opera about opera–productions that are self-referential, whether it's part of the text (Capriccio, Ariadne) or added by the director (insert name of your favorite regie production here). Christoph Marthaler directs this Figaro; and in this self-referential clip, Marcellina clearly thought her aria had been cut, as usual.  

HS as Marcellina: Il capro e la capretta

The first time Ms. Schneiderman sang in Act 1, I didn't perceive her as a mezzo, and I thought, "Great! They finally realized this is a soprano role!" She also struck me as too young, trim, and petite for Marcellina (so much for preconceptions and stereotypes.) 

In a 2010 interview with Gavin Dixon, Ms. Schneiderman commented, "I could still sing Cherubino, but I think you should be believable; you shouldn't have to dress down. I’d rather be a young mother. I’d rather people say ‘Oh you’re too young for Marcellina’ and I’d say ‘thank you’."


  1. Ms. Schneidermann appears alos in the Alan Hacker/Stuttgart production of Alcina, which is my favorite...

  2. Interesting! I really like that Marthaler Figaro but hadn't made the Schneidermann connection. Nice to know some more about her!

    1. Hi Lucy, I like that one too. I especially like Christine Schäfer's performance. Heidi Grant Murphy is good, and it's also my first exposure to Peter Mattei. The production got enough bad reviews that I just HAD to check it out! :)


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