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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Opera Review: Figaro Gets Hitched

The Metropolitan Opera's current revival of Le Nozze di Figaro is anchored by an extraordinary pair of male leads. As Figaro, Uruguayan singer Erwin Schrott gave a high-energy reading of the character, leaping and bounding across the stage. The physicality of his performance was matched by high quality singing, with ringing firm notes and genuine anger in the crucial Act IV betrayal scene. As the Count, Michele Pertusi's strong presence lent force to the nobleman's rage and frustration--yet he also shows the vulnerable side to the character in the opera's finale. In some ways, these two singers are similar. Each shares a swaggering stage presence, expert buffa delivery and fine comic instincts.

Canadian soprano Wendy Nielsen stepped in for an ill Hei-Kyung Hong at the October 10 performance, and the audience was not disappointed. Nielsen sang "Porgi Amor", "Dove sono" and the Letter Scene with a sweet, carefully modulated vocal tone that also blended well in the opera's many ensembles. This is not the frail, wilting Countess, but a robust woman who is determined to hang onto her man at any cost.

Lisette Oropresa sang a high-energy Susanna, pert and sparkling. Anke Vondung made her Met debut as Cherubino, investing the character with a strong mannish energy necessary for this trouser role. Finally, the other three comic leads of the opera (Dr. Bartolo, Marcellina and Don Basilio) were in the capable hands of Maurizio Muraro, Ann Murray and Robin Leggate. From the first act onwards, their comic business and double-dealing enhanced the events of Figaro's crazy wedding day.

Conductor Philippe Jordan led a brisk, egg-timer performance with a stripped-down Met band. The downsized orchestra responded with crisp tempi and exceptional woodwind playing. In keeping with the brisk tone of the evening, the opera was given with one long intermission (between Acts II and III) which made for two long stretches of music but enabled the orchestra to blaze through Mozart's score in three and a half hours, flat.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats