ALBUM TITLE: Le Nozze di Figaro
WORKS: Le Nozze di Figaro
PERFORMER: Lucio Gallo, Eteri Gvazava, Giorgio Surian, Patrizia Ciofi, Sergio Bertocchi, Marina Comparato; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta; dir. Jonathan Miller (Florence, 2003)
CATALOGUE NO: DVWW-OPNDFF
Figaro is unusually well served on DVD, with at least ten versions. Any new recording must be exceptional, and that’s exactly what this one isn’t, in any respect except the clear recording. The overwhelming impression is adequacy; it just doesn’t sparkle like the best.
Mehta might not be everyone’s first-choice Mozartian, but in fact he conducts a warmly theatrical performance with a solid cast. Surian and Ciofi make a rather mature Figaro and Susanna, he rich-voiced but somewhat stolid, she vocally bright enough but a touch shrewish. Gallo’s Count, too, sounds middle-aged, his dark baritone showing signs of wear. Gvazava, though, is an unusually young, vulnerable Countess, sweetly sung, despite some fuzzy diction, and convincingly bewildered by the collapse of her marriage. Bertocchi’s Basilio and Comparato’s elegantly randy Cherubino contribute the best singing, without equalling rivals like Te Kanawa and von Stade. Jonathan Miller as producer arouses hopes,
but this decade-old revival is conventional to a fault, like its rather ugly sets, its details turned routine and stagey. It wholly lacks the comic interplay and boiling tensions of director Peter Hall’s classic 1973 Glyndebourne production.
If you demand modernity, look out for John Eliot Gardiner’s on authentic instruments; Haitink’s 1994 Glyndebourne, compellingly performed but starkly staged; and Nagano’s pleasantly unassuming Lyon recording. Recommendable, too, are Böhm’s starry film and, despite its antique recording, his 1966 Salzburg performance. Nevertheless, Hall’s is still the finest in the catalogue today, its truly superb cast (if you can accept Benjamin Luxon as a blonde-bearded Spanish Count!) and Pritchard’s crisply witty conducting recorded in ageing but acceptable stereo. Michael Scott Rohan