Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Arthaus
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Le nozze di Figaro
PERFORMER: Giovanni Furlanetto, Janice Watson, Ludovic Tézier, Elzbieta Szmytka, Francesca Provvisionato; Lyon Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Paolo Olmi; dir. Jean-Pierre Vincent (Lyon, 1995)
CATALOGUE NO: 100 410
Figaro is the indestructible opera, the one that almost never fails to delight, as this latest film proves. But in its initial stages, one wonders why this 1995 Lyon Opera production was ever chosen to be put on DVD. In terms of Mozart singing it lacks real class (unlike Glyndebourne’s of a year earlier, with Finley, Fleming, Hagley and Andreas Schmidt in the cast). Stylistically, the staging is a ragbag, 18th-century in decor and dress but modern sitcom in deportment, with characters canoodling on the floor, inappropriately barefoot or lounging fully clothed in bed, and with ill-digested passages of farce. The conducting of Paolo Olmi, better known in Verdi, is lyrically inspired but soft-edged – the muscular force that the best Figaro conductors (such as Haitink at Glyndebourne) employ as structural underpinning is conspicuously missing.

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In spite of all this, things liven up considerably thanks to two strikingly talented principals. It’s always rewarding when the opera’s key opponents, Figaro and the Count, are well matched and balanced in strengths. Between them Giovanni Furlanetto, a handsome Latin servant with a winning smile, witty delivery and lightness on his toes, and Ludovic Tézier, a Gallicly aristocratic master characterised by hauteur and violence but also seductive vocalism, keep the big issues in focus – more so than Elzbieta Szmytka’s efficient, rather monochrome Susanna and Janice Watson’s tonally pleasing but bland Countess. A handful of good Italian comprimarii add verbal bite to the drama, notably Marcello Lippi’s Bartolo and Sergio Bertocchi’s Basilio (who gets, and deserves, his aria). All the same, the Glyndebourne DVD (Warner) remains my first choice. Max Loppert