Monday, March 5, 2012

Le Nozze à l'ancienne

Le nozze di Figaro, Staatsoper UdL im Schiller Theater, February 26 2012

Thomas Langhoff ..... director
Daniel Barenboim ..... conductor

Artur Rucinski ..... Il conte di Almaviva
Dorothea Röschmann ..... La contessa di Almaviva
Anna Prohaska ..... Susanna
Vito Priante ..... Figaro
Christine Schäfer ..... Cherubino
Katharina Kammerloher ..... Marcellina
Abdellah Lasri ..... Basilio
Maurizio Muraro ..... Bartolo
Narine Yeghiyan ..... Barbarina
Olaf Bär ..... Antonio
Paul O’Neill ..... Don Curzio

Staatskapelle Berlin

Since I was in town and the last show of this run of Le Nozze at the Staatsoper was scheduled, I could not miss the opportunity to listen to Daniel Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle [Berlin] and a superb cast, at the theater of optimal size for this repertoire.

Auditorium of the Schiller Theater is in fact perfectly suited for Le Nozze di Figaro: it provides the necessary proximity between the performers and public so that the acting is not reduced to grand gestures. All the little gestures matter, all the gags look spontaneous when done well, and nothing goes unseen. Musically, all of the numerous arias are sung with finesse and with all nuances that carve the emotional sides of each of the characters that make Mozart operas so deeply human, and so close to all of us. Importantly, in this auditorium no singer is obliged to shout or scream to fill the huge auditorium. 

First thing that strikes you is that the singers are totally at ease with the production: they all performed in the same setting many times, they know each other well, they all excel in this repertoire, and they  visibly have fun performing. In short all elements were united for a delicate Mozartian Sunday afternoon.

It's just that the production is simply too conservative for my taste. Thomas Langhoff was a celebrated German director whose life could be a material for a novel. He passed away this month at the age of 74, and this run of his production of Le Nozze di Figaro incidentally became a way the Staatsoper paid respect to the author of this show.

The production was premiered in 1999 and was one of those "good old classical productions" that continued the work of Strehler and others. I believe that this line of opera producing culminated by the David McVicar staging of Le Nozze presented at the Royal Opera House in London, and available on DVD, that to me remains the most accomplished classical production of this opera to date. Langhoff production is also available on DVD. Maybe I am too jaded when it comes to Le Nozze di Figaro and I need a fresher look to this amazing story.

If the staging is old and not particularly thrilling, the acting and singing actually made the operatic afternoon very pleasant. Particularly the girls were superb. Dorothea Röschmann is a perfect Rosina. She always knows how to build the emotional portrait of this woman. She sang this role so many times and in many different productions, and still each time I get the opportunity to listen to her Porgi amor, for example, she sounds different but special. Anna Prohaska and her exceptional musicality earned her the status of one of the most demanded lieder singers today. She is in full command of her voice and she is a brilliant actress, so the combination works particularly well in Le Nozze. This production  revolves around Susanna and Anna Prohaska delicately carries the show on her shoulders. What to say about our dear-dear Cherubino sung by our dear Christine Schäfer. Excellent as ever! Other smaller roles were very good too. As for men, I don't remember having listened to Vito Priante singing live before, and I was happy that he was a good match to the high level of performance defined by the female roles. I listened to Artur Rucinski singing in Bregenz a couple of years ago, but that was in an unknown opera and the role was not of this size. His Almaviva last Sunday was terrific. We should all note that Mariusz Kwiecien is not alone as a great Polish baritone for the Mozart repertoire. Rucinski is up there too!

Barenboim was enjoying himself and would rise occasionally from his chair in not too deep a pit, as to  reminding us who truly runs the show. ;)  In the end, always generous Maestro showed up on stage with his orchestra. He always does that, as to highlight the fact that a good conductor cannot be exceptionally good without a brilliant and responsive orchestra.

I wish the production was a little bit less classical to enjoy the whole thing even nmore, but the Berliners --who apparently know well this production-- love it and regularly come back for more.

Production photos are very scarce:

My photos:

Dorothea Röschmann, Vito Priante and Anna Prohaska

Christine Schäfer and Katharina Kammerloher (and ??)

Artur Rucinski Almaviva

Barenboim and his Staatskapelle

On DVD of the same production René Pape sings the role of Figaro. Here is his take on "Se vuol ballare signor Contino"

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