Le Nozze Di Figaro has always been one of my favourite operas, not only for Mozart's amazing music but for how multi-dimensional(broad in comedy but there are some dark shades in the story too like with the Count and Countess) and fascinating the whole opera is. This production is operatic joy, I personally am more partial to the 1973, 1993, 1994 and 1998 performances and the Jean Pierre Ponnelle film, but this production with one of the starrier casts of any Figaro available alongside 1973 Glyndebourne, Ponnelle's and 1998 Met is one of the better ones too.
Brian Large's video directing is exemplary, always elegant with a cinematic value as well. Jonathan Miller's stage direction is one of my personal favourite opera stage directing jobs of his, right from the smallest thing everything in this production is treated with humour and intelligence. With traditional settings and beautifully-tailored costumes(apart from the Countess' somewhat matronly looking costume in Act 2), it is a visually sumptuous production.
Likewise musically, with all the arias played stylishly and the recitatives sensitive in accompaniment and characterful and Claudio Abbado's conducting sensitive. The performances are wonderful. Lucio Gallo with a good if not completely powerful voice and a great sense of comedy and heartiness is every bit the appealing everyman Figaro should be, while Ruggero Raimondi is marvellous as the Count, personifying predatory arrogance. He has been in stronger voice before especially as Don Giovanni and Scarpia, but I do think his voice is suited to the Count than it was as Figaro at the Met in 1985.
Marie McLaughlin plays with Susanna with a lot of charm, and has a beautiful voice. She and Gallo really do make a witty couple. Cheryl Studer is a tad matronly, but still likable and moving, with her voice musically used and not sounding too much as though it was too taxed from taking on heavier roles(Elsa, Chrystothemis, Empress, Odabella as examples) before and during this time. Gabriele Sima is a sexy and sometimes authentically boyish Cherubino. Like McLaughlin's Susanna and Studer's Countess, Sima's Cherubino is also very charming, and Non So Piu and especially Voi Che Sapete are beautifully sung. Heinz Zednik gives one of the finer accounts of Basilio I've seen, his gestures are very funny.
Margharita Lilowa is a very convincing Marcellina, especially in the Act 1 sarcasm duet and the Act 2 ensemble. Rudolf Mazzola is a resonant and amusing Bartolo. All in all, a winner all around. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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