© Salzburger Festspiele / Ruth Walz
One has to admire Sven-Eric Bechtolf for his courage to stage an opera nowadays without unnecessary violence, nudity, strip-tease, sexually explicit scenes, and weird costumes. He interprets Le Nozze di Figaro in this new production for the Salzburg Festival as a comédie de salon : doors opening, banging and closing ; people hiding, listening at doors, confusing each other and themselves… This is light and entertaining, without being superficial and the characters have mozartian depth. One doesn’t quite understand why the piece has been situated in the 1930s however. Nothing in the staging alludes to the political climate of the time, and it would have worked as well in an 18th century set. Alex Eales’ lovely sets are full of adorable details that make the place seem alive and lived-in. Beautiful as well the lighting by Friedrich Rom and Mark Bouman’s elegant and varied costumes. The Almaviva castle looks like a dollhouse: in Act I, we see a cut through the house, with Susanna and Figaro’s bridal chamber in the centre, at its left the Count’s dressing-room, the Countesses bath-room to the right, above them there is a corridor and a bed-room, with the staircase in the background. All through this first Act, people are moving around everywhere, if they’re supposed to be onstage or not. This is probably supposed to show how the plot is set in motion: Basilio spies, Figaro writes a letter, the Countess is languishing… It is certainly amusing to see the Count change his suit three times in a row, to see him put the leash on his dog and take him out for a walk, and it’s even more amusing if one knows that this is Luca Pisaroni’s own dog. Yet, all those shenanigans distract the spectator’s attention from the real action, and one has to wonder if the conductor’s attention isn’t a bit distracted, too. Musically, this first Act advances by jolts and bumps, without real unity between singers and orchestra, and uncertain tempi to boot. Fortunately, from Act II the many ensemble scenes replace the background action, and the conducting sounds a bit tighter. Dan Ettinger does not really do justice to this wonderful orchestra, the Wiener Symphoniker, his conducting is rather trite, without new ideas or energy. Only sometimes, at the final of Act II for instance, with a fine dramatic accelerando, and in the accompaniment of some arias, can we hear the orchestra as it is supposed to sound. The conductor accompanies the recitatives on the piano-forte, but that doesn’t keep them from sounding rushed sometimes.
The cast is excellent throughout: Luca Pisaroni is Almaviva. With his enormous stage presence and formidable energy, with a voice that, for having lost some of its juvenile velvet has won more power and fire, he plays a profoundly human Almaviva. He is a character of changing emotions, between more or less restrained fury, amorous élans towards Susanna, efforts to find the affection of his wife again, a bit vain, a bit ridiculous, but from the beginning of Act III, he imposes his authority. Luca Pisaroni catches and expresses all of those facettes. He sings the Act III aria, Vedrò mentr’io sospiro, with rare and raw energy, his Contessa, perdono is heart-wrenching in its simplicity. Annett Fritsch sings the Countess Almaviva. Agile and ample soprano voice, she is very moving in her aria Dove sono. She is convincing in her role as well, and one would wish for the couple to overcome their crisis. Alas, there is no happy end for them. Another pleasing detail of this staging : the ensemble don’t address the public with the final chorus Questo giorno di tormento, the party is taking place among the Almaviva household and the Countess refuses the glass the Count offers her. In the duet with Susanna, both are wonderful, ironically tender. Martina Janková, soprano sweet and rounded is an ideal Susanna: playful, intelligent and lively. She sings her aria Deh vieni, non tardar, with uncommon abandon and sweetness. Her Figaro is Adam Plachetka. With his strong and versatile baritone and his stage presence, he is a worthy adversary of Luca Pisaroni’s Count. Ann Murray is an infallible Marcellina – her adorable tipsiness at the beginning of Act IV doesn’t really replace her aria Il Capro e la Capretta, that was cut once again, alas. Just as experienced and impeccable, Carlos Chausson as Bartolo. Remarkable among the second roles are Christina Gansch as Barbarina and Ernest Anstine’s Antonio. An enjoyable Mozart moment finally, that will not leave a lasting impression.