ALBUM TITLE: Mozart
WORKS: Le nozze di Figaro
PERFORMER: Ildebrando d’Arcangelo, Anna Netrebko, Bo Skovhus, Dorothea Röschmann, Christine Schäfer; Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopenchor; Vienna PO/Nikolaus Harnoncourt; dir. Claus Guth (Salzburg, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6558
Seeing this staging explains only too clearly why the recordings on compact disc sound quite so
peculiar (see review, p68).
The production doesn’t look too bad: harmless-enough 1930s dress and a barren unit set – the back staircase of a bleak country house, more Scandinavian than Spanish. The cast look good, and act as intensely as they sing – but in thrall to Harnoncourt’s weedkiller interpretation, condescendingly informing his audience that Figaro’s too profound to be mere comedy.
Unkind observers might interpret this as the old pseud’s-corner game of ‘gloomier than thou’. But producer Claus Guth obediently transforms the action into Teutonically stylised psychodrama, inspired, he claims, by Ibsen and Strindberg. The characters jar in a haze of alienated angst, every dysfunctional action sledgehammered home, often with stilted movement and gesture. Dead crows are removed in slow motion. Figaro, in a semi-permanent psychotic fury, brandishes scissors or a broken glass shard, and in ‘Non più andrai’ he and the Count (a hysterical sex addict) truss up the terrified Cherubino, slash his arm with the glass and smear blood across his face. Furthermore, the peasant’s chorus marches rigidly about in fascist-style uniforms. And would either Strindberg or Ibsen really have included Cherubino’s Tadzio-like teenage double, in sailor suit and
cute little wings, who constantly interferes in the action, propelling characters to peculiar contortions?
There’s more, much more. Perverse concepts, finely executed; but ultimately it’s the performance as a whole that must rate the stars. Michael Scott Rohan