[Met Performance] CID:318290
Le Nozze di Figaro {349} Metropolitan Opera House: 10/26/1994.


Metropolitan Opera House
October 26, 1994


Figaro..................Bryn Terfel
Susanna.................Dawn Upshaw
Count Almaviva..........Dwayne Croft
Countess Almaviva.......Carolyn James
Cherubino...............Susanne Mentzer
Dr. Bartolo.............József Gregor
Marcellina..............Rosalind Elias
Don Basilio.............Bernard Fitch
Antonio.................James Courtney
Barbarina...............Yvonne Gonzales Redman
Don Curzio..............Tony Stevenson

Conductor...............James Levine

Review of Robert Croan in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of November 2, 1994

Met's 'Figaro' soars with superb cast

NEW YORK - Opera's latest hot property is Bryn Terfel, 29-year-old bass-baritone from Wales, who debuted at the Metropolitan last month in the title role of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."

Deutsche Gramophone timed the release of Terfel's recording of this opera (with John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists) to coincide with his Met appearances and people were clamoring for copies at the Met's gift shop and record stores. Columbia Artists' Matthew Epstein has called him "the most extraordinary artist I have come across in the past decade."

Such extravagant praise can't fail to arouse some suspicion. Highly-touted mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, for example, sounded wonderful on recordings, but her live performances have shown her to be small-voiced and technically uncertain. In the case of Terfel, however, the hype is justified. His Figaro - I heard the third performance on Oct. 26 - was clearly the most individual and believable characterization since the days of Ezio Pinza and Cesare Siepi.

To be sure, Terfel is no glamour boy. He's burly and rough-looking, yet he has a winning grin and personal magnetism that take focus every moment he's on the stage. The voice isn't huge, but Terfel's pointed tone and skillful projection easily filled the vast spaces of this house. Most significantly, he developed his character meaningfully in the course of the opera's four acts and four hours. His three arias were insightful and compelling, and he interacted naturally with the other personages in Count Almaviva's hectic palace.

But the Met's "Figaro" is no one-man show. The production, re-directed by Lesley Koenig from the original of the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, is integrated and unconventional in many details of staging. Moreover, the cast - with one major exception - was as close to ideal as one can hope for among the current crop of Mozarteans.

Dawn Upshaw is certainly the prime Susanna on the scene today. She sings it magnificently, and creates a less likable figure than is typical. This Susanna is part of a mean but smart servant class that outwits its masters by skill and cunning - in line with the Beaumarchais play that inspired this opera's masterful libretto. Susanne Mentzer is one of the best Cherubinos I've ever seen - handsomely randy, but warm of voice and clear in every aspect of enunciation.

Hungarian basso Jozsef Gregor was a deep-toned blustering Bartolo, while veteran mezzo Rosalind Elias, 65 this year, sang strongly and made a central figure of the aged Marcellina.

Less strong in profile was Dwayne Croft's Count Almaviva, though he didn't leave any bad marks on his role. Carolyn James, however, was totally inadequate as the Countess, beginning with an out-of-tune "Porgi Amor," plodding through thereafter with monochromatic phrasing and awkward stage deportment. The role has since been taken over by the great Welsh soprano, Margaret Price.

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