Sunday, October 24, 2010

Salzburg's Marriage of Figaro

This 2007 release of this Marriage of Figaro from the Salzburg Festival's celebration of Mozart's anniversary is just about the most pointless production I've had the misfortune to witness. Never has such a promising, star-studded cast been wasted on the mismanagement of both conductor and director. But this is not a failure due to incompetency of those at the top, rather its a well thought-out, finely honed and ultimately successful attempt to drain all life and joy out of this most beloved of operatic comedies.

Director Claus Guth directed the proceedings with so much solemnity that you'd think its a production of Tristan instead. This being Salzburg in the modern day, a fair bit of weirdness is probably expected; so we having Figaro cutting open Cherubino's arm while the Count holds him during Non piu andrai and smearing blood all over his face,  and Cherubino later making out with both Susanna and the Countess during Susanna's make-up aria (his arm mysteriously healed in the preceeding interval). Every performer sings with a dazed facial expression, especially in the drearily slow recitatives, as if they were all speedballing cocaine laced with marijuana (thanks Whitney!) Poor Bo Skovhus as the Count had to sing Hai gia vinta la causa while a male fairy sits in his left shoulder and shoves his crotch into his neck. Little wonder then that he declaims the aria more than sings it.

As for the singers, its rare these days for any company to have assembled a top notch cast that includes Anna Netrebko as Susanna (Mozart figured quite a bit in her early career but has since taken a back seat after she has became a star), Dorothea Roschmann as the Countess, Christine Schaefer as Cherubino, Ildebrando d'Arcangelo as Figaro and as mentioned above, Bo Skovhus as the Count. I hesitate to judge their assumption of these famous roles based on this production. Suffice to day that they are mostly in good voice, with vocal resources more than sufficient for their parts; everyone looked chic and sohpisticated in their suits and gowns, and a pre-pregnancy Anna Netrebko looked especially fetching in her maid's outfit. However, I do not recommend this DVD nor the audio CD release at all, whether you are a fan or not, unless you are having a masochistic frame of mind.

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