Mozart – Le Nozze di Figaro.
Il Conte – Mariusz Kwiecień
La Contessa – Katarzyna Oleś-Blacha
Figaro – Krzysztof Szumański
Susanna – Iwona Socha
Cherubino – Monika Korybalska
Marcellina – Agnieszka Cząstka
Don Basilio – Pawel Wunder
Don Curzio – Krzysztof Kozarek
Bartolo – Volodymyr Pankiv
Antonio – Krzysztof Wikowski
Barbarina – Agata Widera-Burda
Chór i Orkiestra Opera Krakowskiej / Tomasz Tokarczyk
Stage Director – Laco Adamik
Opera Krakowska, Kraków. Sunday, June 8th, 2014.
Kraków is known as one of the world’s most beautiful cities and it is one that certainly has much to offer visitors. In addition to the beauty of the main Market Square the city is also home to a fine opera house, intimately-sized with only around 800 seats. Getting to be that close to the singers is a real privilege although the acoustic from where I was sitting was rather dry. The booking process is quite complicated. Sales open two months before the date and tickets may be booked by phone. Once reserved, you then need to send an email to confirm the reservation to which they reply sending a form for credit card details. This is then returned to them and payment is taken. It’s a fine theatre, all the staff are welcoming and program biographies and an introductory essay are printed in English as well as Polish.
The performance itself was superb. Often, when hearing this miraculous work in the theatre, one knows within ten seconds of the overture starting that this is going to be a glorious evening and so it was tonight. Tomasz Tokarczyk conducted a reading of great vigour with swiftly fluid tempi. The way he maintained and guided the orchestra’s internal dialogue always keeping the orchestra bubbling below the surface of the vocal line was remarkable. He is undoubtedly a Mozartian of distinction. The Kraków Opera orchestra played very well – of course I would have liked the strings without vibrato but that’s my personal taste – and the playing was of a very good quality. The only thing was that from my seat in the fourth row, the depth of the orchestra pit had a negative effect on the sound of the band. The winds weren’t quite as prominent as they could have been and I would have liked to have heard more from the brass. Perhaps they could consider raising the pit for this kind of repertoire. Only a relative lack of ornamentation was missing from what was otherwise a musically highly respectable performance.
The singing was also superb. Krzysztof Szumański was a marvellous Figaro. The voice has a beguiling richness and depth and he is a wonderfully generous stage presence. There was real personality and a warmth to his singing that was perfect for this role. It was also sung in exceptionally clear and idiomatic Italian with some tasteful and highly stylish ornamentation. His comic timing was impeccable and he gave us a winning interpretation of this wonderful role. Outstanding. Likewise Iwona Socha as Susanna gave a highly polished performance. The voice has a creaminess and spark that matched the music beautifully allied to a highly engaging stage presence. It was sensationally sung with a beautifully phrased ‘deh vieni.
Katarzyna Oleś-Blacha was an interesting Countess. She sings Lucia and I imagine she would be excellent in that role since her top has a weight and sheen that is really impressive. That said, I found her singing and acting quite generalized. She seemed to be very much a prima donna, a lady in full control of her destiny which while being an interesting reading, didn’t quite convince. I missed the sense of vulnerability of a woman with regrets for what could have been. Monika Korybalska sang Cherubino with an ardent ripe orange tone and easy phrasing. The remaining roles were more than respectably sung and a real credit to the house.
Then there was Mariusz Kwiecień’s Count. I have seen so many gentlemen sing this role but here was something truly hors concours. The role is a perfect fit for his voice, the aristocratic tone and easy line perfectly matches for the character and the music. Yet there was so much more than that. As always with Kwiecień, his performance was the ultimate alchemy of voice and physicality. This was a Count who liked a drink or two and was definitely a ladies’ man as he was constantly charming the ladies of the palace. Yet there was a brutality there and a frustration that pointed to something much more dangerous. Vocally he was in superb form culminating in a stunningly ornamented ‘vedrò, mentr’io sospiro’ that was exceptionally done. I have had the pleasure of seeing Kwiecień in a number of roles now and this is certainly one of his finest.
Laco Adamik’s staging was conventional yet by doing that perfectly illustrated the class system operating in the Almaviva household. Costumes (Barbara Kędzierska) were opulent for the masters and rustic for the servants. It was a good-looking show and presented the action simply and effectively.
There is something quite wonderful in seeing singers sing music that is a perfect fit for them and tonight with Socha, Szumański and Kwiecień I saw just that. Combined with conducting that really brought out the wonder of the piece and some very good singing in an intimate theatre, this was a wonderful evening.