Mozart – Le Nozze di Figaro.
Il Conte – Dario Solari
La Contessa – Rebecca Evans
Figaro – David Soar
Susanna – Elizabeth Watts
Cherubino – Jurgita Adamonyté
Marcellina – Sarah Pring
Don Basilio – Timothy Robinson
Don Curzio – Timothy Robinson
Bartolo – Henry Waddington
Antonio – Julian Boyce
Barbarina – Joanne Boag
Chorus and Orchestra of Welsh National Opera / Anthony Negus. Stage Director – Lluis Pasqual.
Hippodrome, Birmingham. Thursday, March 8th, 2012
I had previously seen this production when it was new at the Liceu in 2008. I don’t remember who conducted it but I do remember that it was one of the most tedious interpretations of this miraculous score I have ever heard. Tonight, however, was nothing short of marvellous. This was a true ensemble performance, given by a well-matched cast that was at the top of its game. Even the production, which didn’t quite convince in Barcelona, felt absolutely right this evening.
It all started with a zippy account of that celebrated overture under Anthony Negus’ baton, apart from a couple of exceptions, tempi were perfectly chosen and the hours sped by. The WNO orchestra also played extremely well, yes, I would have preferred minimal vibrato from the strings and natural brass but this is an orchestra that plays three different scores on three consecutive days and their playing was superb from beginning to end. Balance between stage and pit was flawless and this was an interpretation completely at the service of the piece. The one thing that slightly disappointed was the relative lack of ornamentation – there were some exceptions and they were extremely effective – but I feel more could have been made of this. This is a very minor gripe though given the achievement of the whole.
One thing that stood out about the production was Albert Faura’s evocative lighting. He really encapsulated the kind of sunlight one finds in southern Spain and it worked extremely well. This revival was rehearsed by Caroline Chaney and she prepared a show that succeeded in allowing all of the characters and their complicated relationships to come to the fore.
She was blessed with a cast of superb singer-actors who completely lived their parts. Vocally there were a couple of uneven performances – neither Henry Waddington’s Bartolo nor Sarah Pring’s Marcellina (who lost her aria) quite convinced but dramatically both were very fine. Joanne Boag was a somewhat more mature Barbarina that we are used to but no less effective for that and her aria was beautifully done. Timothy Robinson was superb both as Basilio and Curzio – his diction was second to none. Indeed, the diction of the cast as a whole was first class, every word was clear. Jurgite Adamonyté’s orange-toned Cherubino was a dramatic tour de force but she was also vocally extremely classy.
In the four leading roles, David Soar was an engaging Figaro, somewhat dry of voice but certainly an appealing stage presence. Dario Solari was a vocally extremely glamorous Count, he has a wonderful voice and he was a suitably brutish presence.
What lifted this performance even higher was the performance of the two leading ladies. Elizabeth Watts was a top-class Susanna. I initially found her slightly underpowered but she really grew into the role as the evening moved along, culminating in an exquisite ‘deh vieni’. She also had wonderful stage chemistry with David Soar’s Figaro. Then of course there was the real reason for my trip to see this, Rebecca Evans’ Countess. I don’t think that there is an artist on the planet right now who can sing this music better than she does. Can someone please record her ‘dove sono’ or at the very least put it on youtube? I was in tears at the end of it. Basically, she uses ornamentation inspired by the Coronation Mass where a similar melody appears, the effect is stunningly beautiful and beyond words. Again, her lines of forgiveness at the end had me in tears and were so beautiful. Her peaches and cream tone is perfect for this role and I really hope someone captures her either in audio or on DVD before it’s too late.
After my visit to Karlsruhe last month and now this performance, perhaps it’s time to conclude that the best opera is not at the big houses with the starry names but with smaller regional companies with judicious casting and adequate rehearsal time. This was as fine a Figaro as anyone could wish to see.