Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Marriage of Figaro – Paris Opera, 2006 (Part 2: Eyeglasses and Wine Glasses)

Marthaler and Maestro Sylvain Camberling decided that a harpsichord or fortepiano wouldn’t seem quite right in this setting. So they brought in a performance artist as a “Recitativist.” He’s on stage and participates in the drama—accompanying the recitatives on an electronic keyboard and a batch of odd instruments, including a melodeon, a glass harmonica (pictured), and a pair of beer bottles.  This guy interacts with the other folks on stage, at one point providing the Countess with a couple of shots of whiskey.  
I like the theory of having the accompanist participate in the drama (see the M22 Cosi fan tutte), but this realization just seems silly. I’d rather they’d stuck to harpsichord.

A surprising number of characters in this production wear glasses. Cherubino, Bartolo, Curzio, Basilio, and the Count all wear glasses, and Figaro dons sunglasses when messing with the Count in act 2. It’s that old cliché: people take off their glasses to indicate sincerity. (I take off my glasses to make the world go all blurry.) Another quirk—and something I’ve found annoying in other Marthaler productions—is facial “tics” and spasms he gives Bartolo and Basilio (in particular). It’s disturbing, which might be the idea, but it’s certainly not humorous. 

The Count fancies himself a Latin lover. 
He attempts an awkward Tango with Susanna.

Marthaler and Camberling have a really solid cast here. The standouts for me are Peter Mattei (why have I not heard him before?) and Christine Schäfer–one of the most convincing sopranos in pants around. All of the secondary roles are sung well. I have mentioned Helene Schneider favorably before. Christina Oelze is an acceptable countess (though Dorothea Roschmann shouldn’t lose any sleep over this performance). Lorenzo Ragazzo and Heidi Grant Murphy are a lovable, loving, and vivacious Figaro and Susanna; they’re probably a lot of fun at parties.

In case we forget the “craziness” of the day, the action occasionally pauses so that various characters can pose for the maestro to take their photo; and Marcellina is surprised to find out they haven’t cut her Act 4 aria. Again, I rather enjoy the self-consciousness of the production. Opera is a pretty artificial art form. Why pretend it’s not? I liked this performance. It’s quirky, strange, artificial, and fun, and yet they don’t try to drain the humor out of the work. On the other hand it's not in my list of top 10 must-have Nozzes.

The DVD also includes an hour-long “documentary” of how this production came together, including interviews with the director, maestro, and most of the cast. Sometimes it's good to see these as a prelude to the performance, but I recommend watching it after the opera.

More Peter Mattei as the Count (because we can.)


  1. This one sounds kind of fun, including some of the weirder bits - I am certainly in favor of giving the countess a shot of whiskey every so often! (And in general, I am always more than happy to watch/listen to Christine Schaefer sing Cherubino.)

    1. It IS pretty fun. (It's way more fun than the Guth version!)
      As always, I would say it would never be my desert island Nozze (I think that one right now is the ROH one with Dorothea, Miah, Gerald, and Erwin.) But it's a nice alternative, and the cast is pretty darned good.

    2. I love the ROH one, but I think my desert island Nozze would be Guth's! There's just something about that production that really fascinates me, and I like nearly all the individual performances (though I think as far as Susannas go, I prefer Persson to Netrebko - but Netrebko's performance works just fine in the context)

    3. I guess I need to give the Guth Nozze another chance. To be fair, I am not sure I've watched the entire performance start to finish (though I have listened to the audio recording that DG released) So. I will be back to visit that again. I sure got a lot out of watching the Kusej's Clemenza start to finish last weekend. (But of course I knew I liked that one already!)

      Is it time for more fantasy opera casting?

    4. Is it ever NOT time for fantasy opera casting?

    5. Good point! I wish there were a role for JK in Nozze.. I bet in a few years he might be an awesome Count! (But I don't want to lose him to baritone roles just yet. Maybe we could just transpose everything up a major 2nd or 3rd.) Maybe we can take a cue from Jesusa and do Le Nozze de Figarina, and then JK could play the Countess.

      I think I need food. More protein and less caffeine.

    6. Le Nozze de Figarina - that would be something! I think I would pay considerable sums of money to hear JK as the Countess, just to say I'd been there :)

    7. I watched a bit of Act 3 of his La Scala Lohengrin this evening. I am trying to imagine his voice in Dove sono?

      Now, who would be Susanno? hmmmm.....and how on earth would we cast Cherubino? Dress a man as a girl dressed as a man? I feel a Victor/Victoria issue coming on...

  2. There was too door banging to my taste in this Marthaler Figaro; I get easily distracted with these kind of things. I used to be a firm believer in the ROH Figaro, until I had finally a chance to watch the Guth regie. Now I don’t know which I should prefer; on the days I want something to think about I go for the Guth one. Still after many viewings there is still so much I feel don’t quite understand…

    1. Marthaler tends to have a lot (too much?) going on in his shows. RE: the Figaros, I really do need to rewatch the Guth.. maybe this weekend. I also really like the older Glyndebourne (1970-something) version with Te Kanawa, Cortrubas, and von Stade. I am thankful there are so many wonderful productions, so we don't have to settle for just one (or two!)


Comments are very welcome! They won't be moderated; but rude, abusive, and/or radically off-topic posts will be removed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...