Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro (in English)

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

LABELS: Chandos Opera in English
WORKS: Le nozze di Figaro (in English)
PERFORMER: Christopher Purves, William Dazeley, Yvonne Kenny, Rebecca Evans, Diana Montague; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra/David Parry
This latest fruit of the Chandos-Moores Foundation series is a disappointment. A strong believer in the value of the whole Opera in English project, I came to it ready to enjoy. Furthermore, the singers have all served impressively in previous Chandos issues, and Jeremy Sams’s translation, originally commissioned for the 1991 ENO production, is widely admired and performed. But the ingredients don’t cohere, and the full Figaro experience – one of the most rewarding, of course, in all opera – seems mostly out of reach. Difficulties start with the translation: it’s overloaded with show-off witticisms and with the ‘shut up, you bastard’ demotic that Sams reserves for the lower orders (and which consorts oddly with the ‘Wanton woman get you hence’ usages elsewhere). It hasn’t worn very well. Neither, alas, have the voices of two of the most distinguished principals: in the Countess’s Act III aria, that exquisite artist Yvonne Kenny struggles with the top notes in a manner painful to hear, and Diana Montague no longer commands Cherubino’s youthful freshness. It would have been wiser to cast the latter as Marcellina (as Glyndebourne currently does) and spare us Frances McCafferty’s ungainly vocalisation. There are good singers elsewhere – Rebecca Evans’s Susanna, William Dazeley’s Count – but they give one-dimensional characterisations; only Christopher Purves in the title role and John Graham-Hall’s Basilio manage to combine vocal class and dramatic spark. Chandos’s unfocused recording wraps the opera in a cloud – as, more seriously, does David Parry’s uninspired conducting. No, go for an original-language set (Charles Mackerras’s on Telarc or the ageless Vittorio Gui on EMI), keep the libretto to hand and savour some of the delights missing here. Max Loppert