Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

COMPOSERS: Mozart
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Le nozze di Figaro
PERFORMER: Peter Mattei, Lorenzo Regazzo, Christiane Oelze, Heidi Grant Murphy, Christine Schäfer; Paris National Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Sylvain Cambreling, dir. Christoph Marthaler (Paris, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0960 D (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic)
It’s Figaro, Jim, but not as we know it. Not because the production’s updated; the staging is lively enough to gloss over the 18th-century culture-clash. Nor is it the conductor or singers. Sylvain Cambreling conducts a cheerfully theatrical performance with a generally decent cast, Regazzo’s robust if unexceptional Figaro, Murphy’s jolly but small-voiced Susanna, Mattei’s viperous Count outsinging Oelze’s Countess. Lesser roles are adequate, even Bracht’s coarse Bartolo. And there’s one really outstanding performance. Christine Schäfer sings a gloriously lyrical Cherubino – while metamorphosed into an alarmingly realistic teenage ratbag in grotty t-shirt and slouching combat pants, a sulky bespectacled Bluebottle who greets ‘Non piu andrai’ with a huge pink gum-bubble. But lethally funny though this is, it wholly ignores the character’s dangerous seductiveness, personal and musical; when this entirely susceptible Countess sucks his toes, you only wonder about the health hazard.

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That sums up the production. It’s staged in a single set, a tackily surreal marriage salon, which does for everything, garden included. All the comings and goings have to be cramped into this, therefore, often not very convincingly – no dressingroom, no window for Cherubino to jump from, etcetera. Producer Marthaler compensates with some imagination and pace, but it’s fairly basic farce, obscuring the original’s wit. And, incredibly, he guys the recitatives wildly; they’re playe onstage by a scrawny anoraked weirdo on an electronic keyboard, imitating various instruments and adding occasional vocal yawps. Despite some laughs, newcomers would find this hard to follow. At best it’s Figaro Lite, facing several finer competitors. Michael Scott Rohan