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Opera on DVD: McVicar's Marriage of Figaro

Available from Amazon
Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro, E. Schrott, M. Persson, G. Finley, D. Röschmann, R. Shaham

(released on April 29, 2008)
Opus Arte DVD OA 0990 D
This DVD of David McVicar's first production of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro was recorded at Covent Garden in 2006. It is hard to recommend it over a more daring and less pricey version like the dark and beautifully sung Salzburg production from Claus Guth. However, for a more traditionally minded viewer, this more conventional production is likely to go down easier without being at all boring, and eventually this DVD will also be priced at a discount. McVicar has thought about each line of the libretto carefully and worked with the actors to give believable nuances to the delivery of as many of them as possible. Even with the lines of recitative, sung in many productions at a rapid-fire pace like meaningless patter, are treated by the singers like actual dialogue, which of course they are.

Sometimes one wishes the cast were less concerned with each little nuance, crossing the border into emoting at times -- like the nostril-flaring and indignation-snorting Count of Gerald Finley -- and just sing already. Part of that perception may simply be due to what cinematic close-ups do to a live performance in an enormous theater. Vocally, there are no complaints, although Dorothea Röschmann's Countess, gorgeously sung, is still not quite clean-toned enough for my taste (already noted of the Salzburg production). Erwin Schrott contributes the most Iberian, jealous, swaggering Figaro, and Rinat Shaham is a convincingly boyish Cherubino (but not as fine as Christine Schäfer's in Salzburg). Miah Persson stands out as a little too Nordic in this more Mediterranean world, but makes for a flirtatious, vocally potent Susanna.

The sets (designed by Tanya McCallin) make clear the social distinctions between servant and master, with high-ceilinged halls and tall windows of the manor house a stark contrast to the roll-in set for Figaro's room, which looks a dingy, unfinished utility closet. Adding interest to this version, some of the music often cut from modern productions is included, although as usual Susanna sings "Venite inginocchiatevi" and "Deh vieni" instead of the 1789 replacement arias. Graciela Araya demonstrates one reason why Marcellina's Act IV aria ("Il capro e la capretta") is generally cut, with a dark mezzo voice that cannot negotiate the runs all that agilely. That aria and Basilio's "In quegl'anni, in cui val poco" just after it, which is also included here, round out these two supporting characters, making them more than just the stock stereotypes they often become.


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