The Marriage of Figaro
Christiane Karg, Stéphane Degout, Eleonora Buratto, Alex Esposito, Marianne Crebassa, Katharine Goeldner, Umberto Chiummo, Krystian Adam (voices); Chorus of Dutch National Opera; Netherlands Chamber Orchestra/Ivor Bolton; dir. David Bosch (Amersterdam, 2016)
Arthaus Musik 109393 & 109394 180 mins (2 discs / DVD & Blu-ray)
Filmed in 2016, this Dutch National Opera staging offers strong musical values. Light on his feet, conductor Ivor Bolton is observant in conveying the detail of the score, drawing clean, clear textures from the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra.
Director David Bösch’s production is more of a mixed quantity. It’s set in times sufficiently modern to allow Christiane Karg’s Susanna to use a manual typewriter. Patrick Bannwart’s plain, monumental revolving sets tend to dwarf the action. Bösch’s direction is actually broadly traditional for a modern-dress staging, in the sense that there are not that many additions to the regular stage business; but when it’s not being resolutely jokey, the tone is a good deal darker than usual.
Emblemising his dysfunctional relationship with wife, for instance, Stéphane Degout’s exercise-bike-mad Count is regularly extremely threatening – a bit like the Jack Nicholson character in The Shining when he picks up his axe. In sum he’s an abusive bully, and one has a certain sympathy when Eleonora Buratto’s Countess aims a rifle at him during the final ensemble.
Even Alex Esposito’s vital Figaro has his hands ready to (literally!) strangle Susanna after she sings her apparently duplicitous serenade in the last act. Figaro is a serious comedy, of course, but there’s something particularly dour about these proceedings: the show never quite rises to the level of good humour required.
A pity, because so many of the vocal performances hit the spot, especially Buratto’s Countess and Marianne Crebassa’s Cherubino – both pretty well ideal.