Metropolitan Opera House
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro
John Relyea (Figaro), Andrea Rost (Susanna), Paul Plishka (Don Bartolo), Jane Bunnell (Marcellina), Jossie Pérez (Cherubino), Marius Kwiecien (Le Comte), Michel Sénéchal (Don Basilio), Janice Watson (La Comtesse), Patrick Carfizzi (Antonio), Tony Stevenson (Don Curzio)
Mise en scène : Jonathan Miller
Chœur et Orchestre du Metropolitan Opera de New York, James Levine
The Met has replaced the famous beloved Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production of le Nozze di Figaro with a new staging made by Jonathan Miller premiered in 1998 with stars like Renée Fleeming, Cecilia Bartoli or Bryn Terfel.
This revival had no big names attached to it. The Susanna, Andrea Rost, a Wiener Staatsoper regular and a Violetta under an infamous Traviata under Ricardo Muti in Salzburg, was probably most famous singer in the cast. If there were in places a slight sense of a lack of the individuality that world star performers can give, this was amply compensated by the team feeling which is so important in Mozart operas. The principals: Figaro and the Count, Susanna and the countess were well matched with each other. Musical ensembles were the highlights of the evening. Actually, a big name would have probably unbalanced the stage …
John Relyea and Marius Kwiecien are strong singers, the latter giving a formidable menacing act 3 aria with flawless vocalism. He is certainly a name to watch and once he grows a little more on the part, has the potential to be a stunning Count. Jossie Pérez, another find of the Met’s Young artist development program is the other discovery of this evening. She delivered a superb act 2 aria and provided the evening’s best caracterisation with a fine portrayal of the ebullient, ill-at-ease in his body adolescent. Janice Watson had an uneven evening and had to finish the Dove Sono one octave below. Andrea Rost was a delighful and credible Susanna. Mozart did really write some of his most beautfiul music for this role. And whatever his age may be, Michel Sénéchal has no equivalent as an actor or as a singer as Don Basilio, the act 1 trio being full of sparkles.
It can be understood that the Met decided to phase out some of Ponnelle’s Mozart productions for practical reasons. I am unaware of whether Jonathan Miller returned for this revival, but felt that as a whole, even restaged revivals of Ponnelle’s stagings work better. Had a firmer hand been guiding the singers, then there would have been an overall firmer sense of direction and of “personenregie”. There is nothing really wrong but for those who have discovered what Strehler or Ponnelle have brought to this work will know that a little something is missing. This is not the first time that the Met fails to deliver dramatic caracterisation that could match the excellent and care of what is provided on the musical side.
What was certainly present was the excellence of the Mozartian feeling of James Levine’s direction. Crisp articulation, dramatic flair, ensemble playing, naturalness and unparalleled care for the singers, this was a Mozart in the best Richard Strauss – Karl Böhm tradition. The orchestra and in particular the string played their very best for him. What a pity that this Mozart style of conducting is no longer politically correct. Levine was the most active Mozart conductor in Salzbug in the 80’s. With a few exception, all the conductors due to appear at the planned 07 program of the Salzburg celebration where all Mozart Operas will be performed are firmly on the baroque tradition. After this performance, I just cannot think of a Mozart conductor, Austrian, Italian, German, French, American, .. better qualified to be reinvited for this celebration.