NOZZE DI FIGARO, LE
Life is a game – and the prize is love!
Much has been said about the revolutionary aspect of Mozart's "Le nozze di Figaro." Beaumarchais' play "Le mariage de Figaro" treated the aristocracy with disrespect and presented servants openly defying and conspiring against their masters. Emperor Joseph II only sanctioned its use for Mozart's opera when the librettist Da Ponte had convinced him that all objectionable passages had been removed. Yet what is perhaps more revolutionary than the subject is the music, which for the first time in history carries the plot forward at a whiplash pace with a complex tapestry of solo arias, ensemble pieces, recitatives, orchestral commentaries and, above all, an irresistible spirit.
This is the revolution that director Sven-Eric Bechtolf and conductor Franz Welser-Möst have chosen to underscore in their production for the Zurich Opera. Bechtolf's light-hearted approach highlights the camaraderie among members of different social classes, whereby the social differences practically disappear with Figaro and the Count behaving like old pals and the Countess confiding her most intimate thoughts to her maid Susanna. In a perfect symbiosis of theater and music, Bechtolf shows the weaknesses and human foibles of his characters without letting them slip into caricatures.
Gone are the wigs and bergères of Beaumarchais; set designer Rolf Glittenberg and costume designer Marianne Glittenberg have transported the action to the 1930s, perhaps the last era where the very wealthy were still pampered by servants. The attic apartment of Figaro and Susanna becomes a spacious room with a magnificent skylight and a stage at the rear which suggests that "life is a game"... The singers are more than willing to follow suit, and give their best with alertness and faultless timing every second of the evening.
As Figaro, Uruguayan baritone Erwin Schrott is a virile Latin lover who uses his dark timbre less to seduce women than to impress them – the opposite of Michael Volle's Count, who has seduction in his genes, along with a big portion of humor. Martina Jankovà is the ideal embodiment of Susanna, equal parts beauty, wit, brains and voice, rounded off with cunning and pragmatism. Stirringly noble and graciously feminine, Malin Hartelius' Countess is never tearful or languishing, but surprisingly open to new experiences... Judith Schmid infuses her Cherubino with boyish charm and budding eroticism. Franz Welser-Möst plumbs the depths of Mozart's music, infusing many passages with humor yet never failing to mold his accompaniment to the singers' voices. He teases a finely nuanced, lovingly honed, refreshingly unpretentious rendering of Mozart's score from the orchestra of the Zurich Opera.