Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

Gerald Finley offered a handsomely-sung, dramatically alert
portrayal of the Count, beautifully complemented by VÈronique Gens, whose
apparent indisposition was only occasionally evident. Erwin Schrott’s Figaro
suffered from surprising occlusion of tone during the first act, but thereafter
was very much on form, Schrott’s theatricality and musicality working very
much in tandem. His Susanna, Hanna-Elisabeth M¸ller was perky and vivacious in
both respects too. Kate Lindsey had a slightly uneasy start as Cherubino, but
more than made up for it with a perfectly-sung ‘Voi che sapete’. One could
believe in her/him throughout too, not least when she adopted the guise of
awkward cross-dressing. Amongst the rest of the cast, Ulrich Refl’s Basilio
stood out, although he alas — following directorial orders? — adopted the
current tendency towards caricature in the role, if less so than sometimes one
endures. Elsa Benoit’s Barbarina showed great promise, indeed great
achievement; I suspect that we shall soon be hearing more from her.

If only the cast had been better supported, let alone led, by Dan Ettinger.
The orchestra sounded as though it would have been happier playing without a
conductor; indeed, though sometimes a little on the heavy side, the orchestral
playing as such was distinguished throughout. Alas, Ettinger seemed never able
to settle on the ‘right’ tempo: not that there is only one, but at the
time, it should feel as though that were the case. After an Overture and good
part of the first act that were driven as if they were Rossini, with little or
no space to breathe, other numbers relaxed too much and felt unduly drawn out.
Worse still were the occasions when tempi changed arbitrarily — this was no
Furtw‰ngler! — during a number, ‘Dove sono’ an especially unfortunate
example, Gens seemingly very much at odds, and rightly so, with the conductor.
It was far from the only occasion upon which coordination between stage and pit
went quite awry. My habitual lament at the loss of Marcellina’s and
Basilio’s fourth-act arias was exchanged for relative relief: a sad state of

Dieter Dorn’s production is an odd affair, of which I struggled to make
much sense. I had the impression — which may of course be wide of the mark
— that we saw a director of a fundamentally conservative disposition who
nevertheless felt obliged to try something ‘new’, resulting in a compromise
that lacked coherence. I assume that the contrast between period costume and
scenic abstraction was deliberate, perhaps attempting to make some point about
stylisation, about contemporary reception of an over-familiar
eighteenth-century work, etc., but am not entirely sure quite what that point
was. The fourth act’s ‘business’ with white sheets in place of
‘proper’ scenery has unfortunate echoes of a school play, or perhaps
better, a school ‘movement’ session. The cast seemed to flounder on stage,
and I could not really blame them. There was an equally unfortunate, if
typical, tendency, if less extreme than can sometimes be the case, to confuse
this most sophisticated of comedies with mere farce. (Does not Mozart’s score
tell us everything we need to know in that respect — and indeed in every
other?) For the most part, the cast rose above such limitations, but
limitations they certainly were.

Mark Berry

Cast and production information:

Count Almaviva: Gerald Finley; The Countess: VÈronique Gens;
Cherubino: Kate Lindsey; Figaro: Erwin Schrott; Susanna: Hanna-Elisabeth
M¸ller; Bartolo: Umberto Chiummo; Marcellina: Heike Grˆtzinger; Basilio:
Ulrich Refl; Don Curzio: Kevin Conners; Antonio: Peter Lobert; Barbarina: Elsa
Benoit; Two Girls: Josephine Renelt, Rachael Wilson. Dieter Dorn (director);
J¸rgen Rose (designs); Max Keller (lighting); Hans-Joachim R¸ckh‰berle
(dramaturgy). Chorus of the Bavarian State Opera (chorus master: Stellario
Fagone)/Bavarian State Orchestra/Dan Ettinger (conductor). Nationaltheater,
Munich, Thursday 17 July 2014.

image_description=Das Nationaltheater am Max-Joseph-Platz [Photo © Felix Lˆchner]
product_title=Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro, KV 492
product_by=A review by Mark Berry
product_id=Above: Das Nationaltheater am Max-Joseph-Platz [Photo © Felix Lˆchner]