Mozart's Le Nozze Di Figaro has always been one of my favourites for its memorable characters and story, broad yet funny humour(such as the sarcasm duet between Susanna and Marcellina) and some of Mozart's most sublime music. As far as performances of this great opera go, I prefer the 1975 Ponnelle film(the one that introduced me to the opera) and the 1973, 1993 and 1994 productions. However I found this 1996 performance very enjoyable.
Technically it is very good. The costumes and sets are simple yet attractive and the camera work and picture quality are sharp and skillful. In this area only the sound disappoints, coming across as a little too distant at times. Musically, this Figaro also excels, with stylish orchestral playing, well-judged tempos in the recitatives in alternative to dragging like they can, and assured conducting.
The staging works very well here, constantly the performance is a lot of fun, maintaining the broad humour and the characters' personalities are never taken to extremes, such as the Count still being menacing but not portrayed as literally throwing the Countess across the room like some productions have done. Another asset that worked very well was the choice to cast fairly young singers in the roles. This especially worked for Figaro, Susanna and Cherubino, but I do think the Count could've been older.
Speaking of the singing and performances, they are excellent. I was a little disappointed overall though with Janice Watson as the Countess. She is excellent in Act 4 this said, and her letter duet with Susanna delights. However, she comes across as rather matronly at times, such as in act 2(though I do find this a lot with the Countess in this act) and while her acting is good and she does have a decent voice, I would have preferred a more bigger, lyric one to do justice to the long phrases of Porgi Amor and especially Dovo Sono.
Ludovic Tezier does look too young I agree as the Count, however his singing while not quite as powerful as it was later in his career is authoritative and musical and he brings out the menace of the character quite well. Francessca Provvisionato sings beautifully as Cherubino, maybe she could've been more boyish like in Voi Che Sapete, but there were times such as in Non So Piu that although I never always believed Cherubino was male that I was very touched by how Provvisionato played him.
Tiziana Tramonti is excellent as Marcellina, her voice is beautiful and lyric(in fact I couldn't help thinking how effective a Countess she would've been), and the sarcasm in her duet in act 1 with Susanna bites as it should. Sergio Bertocchi is a perfect Basilio, his tenor voice is interesting and he is very comic and conniving. And how I loved the fact that Marcellina and Basilio's arias are included here, after seeing productions such as the Jean Pierre Ponnelle film omit them. I mustn't forget Marcello Lippi's Bartolo either, he mayn't quite erase memories of Paolo Montarsolo, this said his basso voice is very expressive and has so much resonance.
Nor Elzbieta Szmytka, who mayn't be the most attractive Susanna I've seen(either Alison Hagley or Mirella Freni) but she is very charming and has the right demure for the role. However my favourite performance here was that of Giovanni Furlanetto as Figaro, his voice is quite light but used with lots of style and musicality and as the character he is very hearty, roguish and I think very sweet too.
Overall, very enjoyable and recommended if not the best to me. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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