[Met Performance] CID:294930
Le Nozze di Figaro {311} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/27/1988.


Metropolitan Opera House
December 27, 1988


Figaro..................John Cheek
Susanna.................Hei-Kyung Hong
Count Almaviva..........Thomas Hampson
Countess Almaviva.......Roberta Alexander
Cherubino...............Anne Sofie von Otter
Dr. Bartolo.............Richard Van Allan
Marcellina..............Loretta Di Franco
Don Basilio.............Michel SÚnÚchal
Antonio.................James Courtney
Barbarina...............Harolyn Blackwell
Don Curzio..............Andrea Velis

Conductor...............Mark Elder

Review of Martin Mayer in Opera Magazine (UK)

"Le nozze di Figaro" at the Metropolitan Opera, on December 27, was dedicated to the memory of the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, who designed and directed the production and whose slightly frowning photograph graced the back of the cast-list sheet. And it was, indeed, an astonishing tribute, for this cast under this stimulus somehow made this awful production work as a coherent and ultimately moving piece of theatre. I should not have thought it possible.

Credit must go first of all to Lesley Koenig, who especially in Act 2 modified just enough of the staging details (between the dress rehearsal and this performance, by the way) to save Ponnelle from himself without losing the conception, and to the pair of young lovers, John Cheek and Hei-Kyung Hong. Cheek's City Opera season of major roles (Mefistofele, Attila and Rasputin) seems to have released him from the excessive covering that made his voice woolly, and his broad comedian's mouth and physical flexibility help express Ponnelle's working-class conception of the part.

Hong had a harder problem, because a flirtatious Susanna denies an essential element in the dramaturgy. But she carried it off, as Kathleen Battle never could, because she has a remarkable ability as an actress to internalize what she is told to do. She had a moment's heavy going where 'Deli, vieni' goes into the lower part of the stave, but otherwise she was perfectly beautiful both vocally and musically all night. The voice blended finely with the small-scale but increasingly effective Countess of Roberta Alexander, who was singing with a bit of a cold. A senior member of management asked rhetorically if I had ever in my life heard a better Susanna, and I guess I have (my very first was Bidu Sayao, and I will always have a soft spot for Judith Raskin), but she is already a competitor-and this was only the fifth or sixth time in her life that she has ever attempted the role.

Anne Sofie von Otter, making a debut here as Cherubino, benefited by the popularity of the butch haircut in Sweden, and by her own skill in the trouser role; she suffered a bit by the inevitable comparison with Frederica von Stade, whose exquisite singing in this opera has spoiled us all. (Von Stade was otherwise engaged in "Hansel and Gretel.") She was very well received by an audience that had been told by our critics that she couldn't hack it, which was wildly untrue. The other star of the evening was Thomas Hampson's Count, which could scarcely be improved upon, visually or vocally. Michel SÚnÚchal was his usual sly Don Basilio, very helpful in the first act confusion. Harolyn Blackwell revealed a voice verging on spinto possibilities as Barbarina. Mark Elder, also making a Met debut with this opera, conducted briskly and well. His was in a sense a standard-issue Figaro, but it's a high standard around here, and Mozart himself, it seems to me, has taken care of the "espressivi." A very good night at the Met.

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