August 8th, 2016. Completing his two years as Festivals Interim Intendant, stage director Sven-Erich Bechtolf brought out a package of the three most famous operas by Mozart: “Don Giovanni”, “Cosi fan’ tutte” and “Le Nozze di Figaro”. Attended performance on August 16th presented the first of the six shows of last year´s production´s revival.
Moved from Sevilla to England and set in Downton Abbey Sitcom stage design (Alex Eales), this “Figaro” is more of traditional than of innovative style. Presented with a longitudinal section of the house, the audience finds itself looking inside of the Mozart´s Big Brother House. As if peeping through keyholes, we involuntary became Voyeurs of door – to – door, fast – paced, full of confusion and easy – wit stage happenings.
Musically the evening was framed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under the button of
Dan Ettinger. At the beginning acting more in the background and playing with soft sound, the orchestra musically took the lead only at the final scene of the second act. Ettinger’s uneven conducting created coordination difficulties between stage and orchestra and dynamically remained more indifferent than engaging.
The singer's ensemble, dressed in lovely costumes of post – Edwardian style (Mark Bouman) were more of a type cast, acted well and seemed to enjoy the show. The singing, however, was kept on rather a small voice level, thus not allowing a big dynamic range and missing the sensuality of Mozart’s music.
Luca Pisaroni as Count Almaviva was the acting star of the evening. He is convincing as permanently stumbling from one painful situation into the other, spoiled English Dundee, for whom to betray his wife and then ask for forgiveness is business as usual. His agreeable bass – baritone is equally present throughout the performance and in his famous aria in the third act, he achieved his personal musical highlight.
His stage wife, an unfortunate Countess Almaviva has her first mute stage appearance as still young, beautiful woman who, nevertheless, already needs reading glasses. Soprano Anett Fritsch sings with warm, light sound, with a tremolo and sometimes uneasy high notes. Her acting is soft and gracious, symbolizing the forgiving, loving, ideal type of faithful spouse.
Adam Plachetka’s imposing appearance, unfortunately, didn’t match his singing volumes. He seemed to pull back his voice, making it sound smaller, opening up only in his fourth act aria. His acting nevertheless was charming and especially in the finale, he gave a lovely and teddybear-like, admirable Figaro.
Margarita Griskova as Cherubino sings with warm mezzo-soprano and is absolutely lovable in his continuous seducing attempts. Her acting is often too feminine thus, maybe, explaining, why amorous Basilio so persistently pursues Cherubino. It is remarkable how Paul Schweinester manages to combine never-ceasing action with admirable singing. His Basilio as an omniscient, everywhere present chief spy, is the most well-shaped character in this production.
The Buffo couple of Marcellina and Dr. Bartolo were sung by Ann Murray and Carlos Chausson. Both singing and acting noteworthy, Ann Murray stole the show by giving in the fourth act an absolutely hilarious and incredibly funny performance of a drunk, hiccupping old Lady.
Franz Super as Don Curzio and Erik Anstine as Gardener Antonio both displayed good voices: Super giving a refreshing, not stuttering lawyer and Astine of a comical, steadily drunk man. Christina Gansch in the tiny role of Barbarina managed to make an impression both with her lovely soprano and boyish like, admirable play.
Greatly appreciated by the audience this production builds up, together with the two mentioned above, the Festivals´ Da Ponte Trilogy. Recently released on DVD and Blue-Ray under Unitel Classics it features up to 4K Ultra HD definition picture quality, additional backstage footage, a digital opera guide and gives a welcome opportunity to experience up-close and to enjoy the spirit and the high quality of this great venue.