Mozart – Le Nozze di Figaro.
Il Conte – Gerald Finley
La Contessa – Rebecca Evans
Figaro – Alex Esposito
Susanna – Camilla Tilling
Cherubino – Anna Bonitatibus
Marcellina – Marie McLaughlin
Don Basilio – Guy de Mey
Don Curzio – Timothy Robinson
Bartolo – Christophoros Stamboglis
Antonio – Jeremy White
Barbarina – Dušica Bijelić
Royal Opera Chorus, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House / David Syrus.
Stage Director – David McVicar.
Royal Opera House, London. Saturday, May 10th, 2014.
There are some shows that during which one might question the odd tempo choice or notice that a particular singer sang sharp, yet one leaves at the end with such a total sense of satisfaction and happiness that nothing else in the world seems to matter. Today was one such day.
As anyone who reads this blog knows, Le Nozze di Figaro is very possibly my desert island opera. It is a piece that I love so very much, one that seems to contain every possible human emotion and when done right, is one of the greatest possible experiences that anyone can have in the opera house. Last year I was so very privileged to see two performances of the work with conducting that essentially presented it as I have always wanted to hear it. I had high hopes for today and they were certainly realized. This was a glorious afternoon capped by some exquisite singing amongst the best assumptions of some roles that I have ever heard.
McVicar’s staging is pretty much as I found it last September. It is fluent enough and allows the story to be told logically and clearly. I don’t think it presents the work in any particular new light but it does provide an inoffensive framework for these magnificent performances to take place in.
Alex Esposito gave us a wonderful Figaro. As always with this terrific performer, his was a highly physical performance yet he sang with a rustic earthiness that totally captured Figaro’s personality. His voice seems to have gained in resonance recently and he sang with wonderful attention to the text. His arias were dispatched with complete security and an easy line – he was sensational. Camilla Tilling’s Susanna culminated in a winning ‘deh vieni’ demonstrating a beautiful line and some exquisite portamenti. There were times where it felt that she was on the sharp side of the note but she displayed some fantastic comic timing and there was genuine chemistry between her Susanna and Esposito’s Figaro. Gerald Finley’s Count offered elegance and brutality at the same time. He was fully inside his character and negotiated ‘vedro mentr’io sospiro’ with clarity and aplomb. Marie McLaughlin was a witty and generous Marcellina – why did they have to cut her aria? I really missed it today. The other supporting roles were well taken.
Then there was Anna Bonitatibus’ Cherubino. I’ve heard some fantastic assumptions of this role but this was a whole other level. Her ‘voi che sapete’ was simply stunning, the line ornamented to perfection, an exquisite use of dynamics and effortless breath control but above all an ability to use the words to completely illustrate the music. Combined with her vibrant, rich tone and her engaging and vivacious stage presence this was an outstanding assumption of the role.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see Rebecca Evans’ Countess three times now and each time she broke my heart with her ‘dove sono’. It is so perfectly done, the line easily produced and so stunningly ornamented that it is impossible not to be moved. Likewise ‘porgi amor’ floated on a single strand of sound filling the theatre with warmth and humanity. Her final lines of forgiveness to the Count again left me so completely moved with her compassion and dignity. I wonder if Evans would consider singing the Marschallin, I imagine that it would suit her very well.
David Syrus’ conducting was a bit problematic for me. Those who know me will know of my preference for swift tempi and vibrato-less strings. That said, I can live with big band Mozart if it doesn’t sag. There were times today when it did just that but they were very few fortunately and otherwise the tempi were fluid and kept things moving along nicely. The main issue was with the recitatives, they tended to lack spontaneity so that tension sagged between the arias. The orchestra played respectably with some nicely raspy brass, the chorus lacked blend.
With so many problems in the world right now life can seem incredibly difficult yet three and half hours in the theatre can make an incredible difference. One is reminded of genius and humanity and the wonder of how an unamplified human voice can realize such perfect music that one is transported to an infinitely better place. Today was one such day.