The Metropolitan Opera – Richard Eyre’s production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro – Christian Van Horn, Ying Fang, Gerald Finley, Sasha Cooke, Federica Lombardi; conducted by James Gaffigan

Le nozze di Figaro, K492 – Opera buffa in four Acts to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte after the comedy La folle journée, ou Le mariage de Figaro, by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais [sung in Italian, with Met titles by Sonya Friedman]

Figaro – Christian Van Horn
Susanna – Ying Fang
Doctor Bartolo – Maurizio Muraro
Marcellina – Elizabeth Bishop
Cherubino – Sasha Cooke
Count Almaviva – Gerald Finley
Don Basilio – Giuseppe Filianoti
Countess Almaviva – Federica Lombardi
Antonio – Paul Corona
Don Curzio – Tony Stevenson
Barbarina – Meigui Zhang

Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera [continuo: Howard Watkins (fortepiano) & Julia Bruskin (cello)]
James Gaffigan

Sir Richard Eyre – Production
Rob Howell – Set & Costume Designer
Paule Constable – Lighting Designer
Sara Erde – Choreographer & Revival Stage Director

Reviewed by: David M. Rice

Reviewed: 6 April, 2022
Venue: The Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, New York City

In this second cast of the Met Opera’s fourth revival of Richard Eyre’s 2014 production of Le nozze di Figaro, James Gaffigan and four of the five principals are making their role debuts. Although this was only the ensemble’s second performance together, it was well-coordinated and musically excellent. 

During the lively Overture, as Rob Howell’s set rotates to reveal the various locales within the Almaviva mansion, the singers silently introduce their characters, suggesting the backstory that sets the plot in motion, beginning with Count Almaviva chasing Susanna. The plot really revolves around Susanna, who is loved by Figaro, pursued by the Count, faithfully serves the Countess, and is Cherubino’s confidante. Ying Fang brings winning charm and outstanding vocalization to the role, showering Figaro with affection and clearly enjoying plotting with him and the Countess to entrap the lecherous Count. She was terrific, often as her character remains concealed from the others, and her only full-scale aria, ‘Deh! Vieni, non tardar’ in the final Act, was marvelously rendered.

Christian Van Horn’s resonant bass in ‘Se vuol ballare’ ably expresses Figaro’s feisty willingness to take on his master — a politically explosive concept in Mozart and Da Ponte’s day, but less so in the 1930s, in which Eyre’s production is set. Van Horn projects humor when he mockingly sends Cherubino off to join the Count’s regiment in ‘Non più andrai’, and frustration when he soliloquizes in Act Four, shining a lantern into the audience, thereby piercing the ‘fourth wall’. He uses his tall stature to fine effect in many incidences of physical comedy. 

As the Count and Countess, Gerald Finley and Federica Lombardi make sparks fly. Finley, always a highly intelligent artist, paints a convincing portrait of a scheming philanderer. He brilliantly combines musicality with contrasting emotions: the Count’s joy as he believes he has an assignation with Susanna in their duet, ‘Crudel! Perché finora’, and soon afterward his rage on learning that he has been tricked and his desire for vengeance in the showstopping ‘Hai già vinto la causa! . . . Vedrò, mentr’io sospiro’. Finley’s comic timing is flawless at each surprising and maddening encounter with Cherubino. Lombardi was in fine voice in her introductory ‘Porgi, amor’ and her wistful ‘Dove sono’ in Act Three was quite touching. As the Countess and Susanna hatch their plot to expose the Count’s infidelity, Gaffigan set his baton aside to shape the phrases with his hands, one of the loveliest moments. Forgiveness is a constant theme, not only in the relationship of the Count and Countess, but also of the opera. When Cherubino steps out of the Countess’s closet in Act Two, Finley and Lombardi made a sudden role reversal, the Count now the one begging forgiveness, a magical moment. And it is his plea for forgiveness in the final scene that allows a happy ending — although we can be fairly certain that he will stray again before very long. 

Sasha Cooke is quite entertaining as the hopelessly lustful page Cherubino, who seems to take delight every time he is in the presence of the Countess, especially when he finds himself on her bed, lying between her and Susanna! Cooke’s breathless ‘Non so più’ and lyrical ‘Voi che sapete’ are both sung beautifully, and she is adept at evoking laughter. 

Maurizio Muraro and Elizabeth Bishop give fine performances as Doctor Bartolo and Marcellina, his ‘Vendetta’ aria powerfully delivered, and her sparring with Susanna highly amusing. This is Muraro’s sixty-fifth appearance in this role, and at the end of the current run he is slated to make his one-hundredth MET portrayal of Bartolo, including in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

Gaffigan draws excellent playing from the orchestra, with particularly noteworthy contributions from the continuo duo. The wedding march is a highlight, and the fandango that follows is also delightful.

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