LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Le nozze di Figaro
PERFORMER: Jochen Schmeckenbecher, Regina Schörg, Birgid Steinberger, Kwangchul Youn, Ruxandra Donose, Heidi Brunner; Chorus sine nomine, Vienna RSO/Bertrand de Billy
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 92759 2 166:14 (3 discs)
There’s always room for a new Figaro recording with ‘something to say’, so this set, second in an Arte Nova Mozart opera series under Bertrand de Billy, merits a welcome. Paris-born, currently in charge at the Barcelona Liceu, the 37-year-old de Billy is a rising star – and, on this evidence, justly so.
His vision of the work is honestly individual, strong in profile, genuinely vital. The overture makes it clear that he is alert to musico-dramatic sense, to the musical arguments underpinning the comedy. Tempi are predominantly fast, but the vocal and instrumental lines very seldom sound hustled: the energies of the score are released in a way that promotes fresh enjoyment and keen concentration. An excess of added production effects fails to mar the impression.
Three members of the predominantly youthful cast are outstanding: the warmly Italianate Korean bass Youn (Figaro), the radiant Romanian mezzo Donose (Cherubino) and the stylish US tenor Jeffrey Francis (a Basilio who really deserves his Act IV aria). The rest are less remarkable – the Countess and Susanna too similar in lightweight tone and manner – which is why my favourite recordings are not displaced: Mackerras (Telarc) for all-round flair, Gardiner (DG Archiv) for period cut and thrust, and the gloriously graceful, humane 1955 Glyndebourne set under Vittorio Gui in its bargain reissue. Still, de Billy’s Figaro is very much worth hearing. Max Loppert