[Met Performance] CID:303640
Le Nozze di Figaro {321} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/8/1991.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 8, 1991


LE NOZZE DI FIGARO {321}

Figaro..................Samuel Ramey
Susanna.................Marie McLaughlin
Count Almaviva..........Jorma Hynninen
Countess Almaviva.......Kiri Te Kanawa
Cherubino...............Frederica von Stade
Dr. Bartolo.............Artur Korn
Marcellina..............Judith Christin
Don Basilio.............Anthony Laciura
Antonio.................James Courtney
Barbarina...............Heidi Grant Murphy
Don Curzio..............Andrea Velis

Conductor...............James Conlon

Review of Martin Mayer in Opera (UK)

"Le Nozze di Figaro" on March 8 at the Metropolitan Opera was a truly magical night. Things did not just go right, they went miraculously right. I don't think I have ever seen a cast have such a good time on that stage, and I know I have never before heard a performance of this opera that made it seem so short. The Met has now suitably commemorated the Mozart year. Everything else will be gravy. To gain such results, of course, you need a great cast. Samuel Ramey was Figaro, a role he had never done here previously; it fits him like a glove. Susanna was Marie McLaughlin who owns this production, having done the prototype versions in Paris and Washington; her stage wisdom, her pulling together of all the others in the story, was a "sine qua non" for the performance we gained. Kiri Te Kanawa, most handsomely gowned, was totally participant, and sang an incredibly beautiful "Dove sono." Jorma Hynninen was a strong and neatly lecherous Count and Frederica von Stade, as always, was a champion Cherubino.

Even a cast like this, however, cannot pull such results out of the hat without magicians off-stage, and the most remarkable accomplishment was that of Lesley Koenig, who now has a free hand with this originally rather unfortunate production. Given the splendid acting skills of this cast, she created a blend of farce and feeling unique in my experience of the piece: we oscillated all night between laughter and tears.

A few bits stand out. In the fourth act, Koenig equips Figaro with a cudgel (he is, I mean, mad at the world). When he urges the 'Countess' to join him in getting revenge and hears her response, he stands up the cudgel, measures above it to the lady's hat, and then (McLaughlin being roughly nine inches shorter than Te Kanawa) yelps his joyous 'Susanna' out of the corner of his mouth to the audience. That act begins with the chairs of the Count and Countess from the wedding scene still on stage, and Barbarina searching for the pin, which she dropped as Antonio chased her away to close the third act. Some things are simple, like Te Kanawa, prostrate in fear as her husband goes for the closet where Cherubino has hidden, lifting on her elbows with a glance of amazement when she hears the word 'Susanna,' or Andrea Veils as Don Curzio anxiously thumbing through the pages of a giant law-book to find the citation for his argument against Figaro marrying his mother. Artur Korn's rather bland Bartolo, Judith Christin's giggly Marcellina, Anthony Laciura's over-active Basilio, and especially James Courtney's assertive Antonio used their talents to best advantage.

Again, none of this would work without James Conlon's alert conducting. When artists whose work one knows repeatedly make phrases just a little differently, it argues either that the conductor had some new ideas or that he had the ability to bring out new ideas from his singers. This was a pretty high-risk performance, some tempos quite fast, others (especially the first-act trio with Cherubino hidden in the chair) a touch slow, placing a burden on the slapstick. But Conlon's conducting has become a high-class act, with a flexible and informative left hand and forearm and elbow. The Met's second-string orchestra played very nearly as well for him as the first-string orchestra plays for the boss. And of course you do not get magic like this evening without a quality prestidigitator. As everyone sang at the end, "Tutti contenti saremo cosi."



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