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Mozart: Da Ponte Operas

Le nozze di Figaro

Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (Figaro), Anna Netrebko (Susanna), Bo Skovhus (Count), Dorothea Röschmann (Countess), Christine Schäfer (Cherubino), Marie McLaughlin (Marcellina), Franz-Josef Selig (Bartolo), Patrick Henckens (Basilio), Oliver Ringelhahn (Curzio), Florian Boesch (Antonio), Eva Liebau (Barbarina)
Wiener Philharmoniker/Nikolaus Harnoncourt

director Claus Guth
set designer Christian Schmidt
costume designer Christian Schmidt
lighting designer Olaf Winter

Salzburg Festival 2006 Unitel Classica/EuroArts 2058818

A new boxed set of Mozart's three Da Ponte Operas directed by Claus Guth, and recorded at the Haus für Mozart during Salzburg Festivals 2006-09, part of Salzburg's M22 project in which the Festival staged all 22 operas of Wolfgang Mozart to celebrate his 250th birth year and recorded them for posterity.

This re-issue is worth considering by readers who may have missed the original M22 releases (q.v. our Musical Pointers reviews of many of them, e.g. Idomeneo). And do see too the very perceptive overviews by Amazon customers, some of whom sensibly had the box from libraries or hired individual operas.

All of them were radical and challenging, some at the time seemed perverse - we didn't take to the Don Giovanni, nor to the contemporary crudities of Goth's take on Cosi (sample the girls, drunk and the worse for wear on video in "Ah, guarda sorella")...

The Figaro, however, endures well and is a classic of intelligent opera re-appraisal. For many of us Susanna is the pivotal character, and is certainly so here, but she is portrayed as a much more complex person in Claus Goth's perception, as Anna Netrebko explains in the invaluable Making of Le nozze di Figaro extra; a woman who is able to acknowledge and respond to the attraction of two men at the same time, which she accepts is how life is in truth for women too...

Subtle sexuality is rife in this version, not least in the Act 2 scene where Cherubino, after singing Voi che sapete, is being dressed in disguise; an amorous threesome... The Count is a far more sympathetic figure than usually, " - - neurotic and guilt-ridden and seems genuinely to be in love with Susanna - - Harnoncourt mines the score for its deepest emotional resonances".

It is a dark version - "Harnoncourt and director Claus Guth have turned this most revolutionary of comedies into an internalised psychodrama of almost unendurable intensity. Only Anna Netrebko's Susanna possesses any kind of rationality in this world of clashing neuroses. Cherub, a silent winged angelic figure, meanwhile, weaves his way among the characters, surveying their behaviour." [Tim Ashley in The Guardian] & "Not your Grandma's Figaro - - Eros a seductive non -speaking/singing young man dressed in school boy uniform with cherubic wings running around trying to manipulate all the characters" [Magyar The Universe].

Several years on, radical re-thinking and updating of opera has become de rigeur, and these pioneering Salzburg innovations are certainly worth revisiting, flawed though some of them be.

But this Figaro is a must for everyone who cares about Mozart the opera composer.

Peter Grahame Woolf

- see screenshot L of final tableau, Cherub/Eros (centre) having elucidated for us (?) the confusions in the great Act 2 Finale !

Mozart: Così fan tutte

Miah Persson (Fiordiligi), Isabel Leonard (Dorabella), Topi Lehtipuu (Ferrando), Florian Boesch (Guglielmo), Bo Skovhus (Don Alfonso), Patricia Petibon (Despina)
Adam Fischer
Don Giovanni Christopher Maltman (Don Giovanni), Erwin Schrott (Leporello), Annette Dasch (Donna Anna), Matthew Polenzani (Don Ottavio), Dorothea Röschmann (Donna Elvira), Ekaterina Siurina (Zerlina), Anatoly Kocherga (Il Commendatore), Alex Esposito (Masetto)
Bertrand de Billy

DVD Video - 6 discs