The Metropolitan Opera – Le nozze di Figaro

Le nozze di Figaro – Opera buffa in four acts to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte after Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais’s play La folle journée, ou Le mariage de Figaro [Sung in Italian; Met titles by Sonya Friedman]

Figaro – Luca Pisaroni
Susanna – Lisette Oropesa
Bartolo – John Del Carlo
Marcellina – Ann Murray
Cherubino – Isabel Leonard
Count Almaviva – Ludovic Tézier
Don Basilio – Greg Fedderly
Countess Almaviva – Annette Dasch
Antonio – Patrick Carfizzi
Don Curzio – Tony Stevenson
Barbarina – Ashley Emerson
Peasants – Joyce El-Khoury & Jennifer Johnson

The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

The Orchestra of Metropolitan Opera [Steven Eldredge (harpsichord) & David Heiss (cello)]
Fabio Luisi

Jonathan Miller – Production
Peter J. Davison – Set design
James Acheson – Costume design
Mark McCollough – Lighting design
Terry John Bates – Choreography
Gregory Keller – Stage direction

Reviewed by: David M. Rice

Reviewed: 23 November, 2009
Venue: Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City

As it did when Jonathan Miller’s 1998 production of Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” was last revived in 2007, the Metropolitan Opera scheduled two distinct runs of the opera which, although just weeks apart, feature almost completely different casts – and this time even different conductors. This was the first performance under Fabio Luisi – Dan Ettinger led the earlier ones – with new singers in nearly all of the principal roles. Happily, the result was every bit as satisfactory this season as it was two years ago, with the new cast well-coordinated and functioning smoothly as an ensemble.

Leading the new cast were Luca Pisaroni as Figaro and Lisette Oropesa as Susanna, both returning to roles that they had previously performed at the Met – Pisaroni in his debut season in 2005 and Oropesa in 2007. The portrayal of these characters is crucial, as the opera’s plot revolves around the couple’s overcoming obstacles to their planned marriage, and Pisaroni and Oropesa made a thoroughly convincing pair of lovebirds and co-conspirators with the Countess against Count Almaviva’s lecherous intentions, Marcellina’s connubial and financial scheming, and Dr Bartolo’s quest for revenge.

Pisaroni cut a striking and romantic figure as Figaro, and was in excellent voice as he railed against the Count in ‘Se vuol ballare’, taunted Cherubino on his conscription into the military in ‘Non più andrai’, and warned mankind against women in ‘Aprite un po’ quegl’occhi’. Oropesa, a graduate of the Met’s Lindermann Young Artist Development Program, is one of the finest developing artists. She was a radiant Susanna, with a keen sense of comedic timing as the plot twisted and turned about her. Her ensemble singing was outstanding, and her fourth act aria, ‘Deh vieni, non tardar’, was sung expressively and with marvellous clarity.

Annette Dasch, in her Met debut, was a fine Countess, vocally resplendent, regal in bearing, and more than a match for her philandering husband. Her ‘Porgi, amor’ began a bit tentatively, but blossomed out well, and her beautifully rendered ‘Dove sono’ had just the right touch of wistful sadness. Ludovic Tézier sang powerfully and resonantly in his first Met Almaviva. His portrayal of the Count was persistently dark, with his pleas for the Countess’s forgiveness seeming insincere and with his true colours coming through in the chilling ‘Vedrò mentre io sospiro’.

Isabel Leonard as Cherubino was the only principal to continue from the cast that opened the season in September. She was hilarious as the love-struck page, particularly in the gender-bending sequences in which ‘he’ dons women’s clothes. Her ‘Non so più’ was delivered with appropriate breathlessness, and ‘Voi, che sapete’ with tender lyricism.

Ann Murray had previously sung Marcellina at the Met in 2007, and she again gave a strong performance both vocally and in her comedic byplay with Susanna, Bartolo and Figaro. Mercifully, Marcellina’s fourth act aria was cut (as was Don Basilio’s moralising aria), thus allowing the plot to reach its dénouement without too many digressions.

John Del Carlo has played the character of Dr Bartolo at the Met more than fifty times – mostly, however, in Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia” – a much more patter-laced role. In “Figaro”, his biggest moment comes right at the outset in his aria, ‘La vendetta, oh la vendetta’ in which he cries out for revenge against Figaro for having thwarted (in the Rossini opera) the doctor’s plans to marry his ward Rosina (now the Countess). Del Carlo’s deep, rich voice was somewhat subdued at the outset, but booming by the aria’s end as he vowed to triumph over Figaro. Greg Fedderley as a foppish Don Basilio reprised a role he had performed in three prior Met seasons, singing well and contributing to the plot’s twists.

Remaining from the September cast were an outrageously funny Patrick Carfizzi as the gardener Antonio, Tony Stevenson as the stammering Don Curzio, and Ashley Emerson as a charming Barbarina. Stevenson and Emerson are also graduates of the Met’s Lindermann Program (in which Joyce El-Khoury and Jennifer Johnson, who portrayed peasant girls, are currently members).

Fabio Luisi, whose prior stints at the Met were in operas by Verdi and Richard Strauss, steered Mozart’s score to a smooth passage, coordinating well with the singers and never overpowering them. The opening bars of the Overture were a bit ragged and the orchestral sound a trifle muddy, but these flaws were very quickly corrected. The conclusion of the third act marks the culmination of the opera’s principal plot, as reflected in its title, and Luisi and the orchestra emphasised the wedding march and fandango accordingly, providing a strong emotional highpoint.

Jonathan Miller’s production, Peter J. Davison’s sets and Mark McCollough’s lighting, all serve the opera well, particularly as the set rotates between the third and fourth acts to move the scene into the garden without interrupting the flow of the action. (A fairly lengthy pause was taken between the first two acts, however.) By showing the exterior of the Count’s palace at an odd angle, Davison creates a visually striking setting for the complicated comings and goings that ensue in the opera’s final act.

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