Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
ALBUM TITLE: Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
WORKS: Le nozze di Figaro
PERFORMER: Pietro Spagnoli, Annette Dasch, Rosemary Joshua, Luca Pisaroni,Angelika Kirchschlager; ConcertoKöln/René Jacobs; dir. Jean-Louis Martinoty (Paris, 2004)
CATALOGUE NO: BAC 017 (NTSC; dts 5.1; 16.9 anamorphic)
René Jacobs’s CD Figaro was somewhat controversial, with Concerto Köln’s lean strings, the emphasis on woodwind and brass – often rather brash, with its freewheeling continuo, but full of life and superbly sung, despite some misjudged ornament. Not surprisingly, the same could be said here, though the brashness is muted by the balance of pit and stage. The biggest name here is Angelika Kirschlager, a gangling, lecherous Cherubino. No less likeable, though, are Annette Dasch’s unusually youthful, rebellious Countess, whose creamy tone even survives skipping hopscotch in the allegro of ‘Dove sono’; Rosemary Joshua’s wryly intelligent Susanna, and Pauline Courtin’s vivacious Barbarina. Bartolo (Antonio Abete), Marcellina (Sophie Pondjiclis) and Basilio (Enrico Facini) are excellent. Less happily, Pietro Spagnoli is a handsome, Pinza-like Count, but his elegant voice lacks the character of Simon Keenlyside on the CD and Luca Pisaroni’s Figaro, though richly voiced, is rather charmless. That may well be producer Martinoty’s fault, although this is a lively, likeable staging, in period costume but set among a surreal montage of classical paintings. He frequently burdens his crisp comic action with laboriously ‘original’ business – the hopscotch and so on, although having Figaro’s ‘Cinque… dieci…’ refer to 18th-century IKEA instructions is sheer genius. In all, if you can take the Jacobs sound this is highly recommendable. The 1978 Pritchard/Peter Hall Glyndebourne recording is still about the most complete Figaro on video, but in mono and with modern instruments. Jacobs overtakes Gardiner’s set, snappy, strongly sung but hurried and drearily staged, for the periodinstrument crown. Michael Scott Rohan