MOZART: Le Nozze di Figaro (complete opera), Blu-ray (2011)
Cast: Ludovic Tezier (Count)/ Barbara Frittoli (Countess)/ Luca Pisaroni (Figaro)/ Isabel Rey (Sussana)/ Marina Comparato (Cherubino) Madrid Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/ Jesus Lopez Cobos
Director: Emilio Sagi
Studio: Teatro Real TR9700 [Distr. by Allegro]
Video: 16:9 1080i Full HD Color
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0, PCM Stereo
Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian
Extra: “A perfect opera?”
Length: 205 minutes
It’s always nice to see a production that is actually set in a time period that the composer could have at least related to, and one that relies on the libretto and music to make its salient points instead of some director’s philosophical hang up. This is a production like that, and from the opening scenes you get a refreshing sense of normalcy that just shows how nutty some things have gotten in the opera world. Unfortunately there are a few detriments as well, not enough to spoil the overall effect, but certainly a concern when contemplating purchase.
I have harped on the age discrepancy between character and performer here before, perhaps unfairly. After all, in a stylized and highly unrealistic medium does it really matter if, as in this case, Sussana looks old enough to be Figaro’s mother? A little yes, but here technology actually adds to the problem. Years ago when we had films of operas that starred not-so-young performers playing far younger characters there was not as much issue because the film medium lacked the clarity and definition to always show us the true age of any given performer. But with the sharp, brilliantly clear, in your deepest pores look of high-def Blu-ray, the age factor can become profound. So what might not have used to be a problem now becomes one, at least to a certain extent as it requires yet another operatic suspension of belief.
I would not however, trade Blu-ray for anything else as the picture here is simply spectacular, wide, colorful, and in laser-like focus.
The singing is in general very good. Isabel Rey still retains a heft and yet light approach to her character that convinces the ears even when the eyes are not fooled. Barbara Frittoli is terrific as the Countess, portraying her as wronged yet coolly hopeful in her struggle with her husband. Ludovic Tezier makes for a fine Count, although I felt his voice lacked some of the gravity that others have provided in the role. Maria Comparato is a fine Cherubino, but she lacks the height (like Von Stadt) because she is shorter than Sussana and looks more like a child than a potential suitor. Her voice does have the requisite flow and quality for the role. Figaro is a little more of a problem as Luca Pisaroni seems to sing behind the beat in many instances, most egregiously in the opening scene. This is partly the fault of the normally-reliable Jesus Lopez Cobos, who leads what can be considered a rather lackluster and unexciting reading of this score, with many examples of slack ensemble. Nonetheless, in the end Mozart, as is usually the case, wins the day, and the production still proves enjoyable, especially with the excellent video production. I must say however that the audio is somewhat problematic—the orchestra is consistently drowning out the singers, and the balance between the two is an issue, whether listening in surround mode or stereo.
As far as I can tell the Royal Opera House production of 2006 under Antonio Pappano is the only other Blu-ray production available. I would probably vote for it over this one if forced, though the 1976 Bohm German TV production or the 2003 Glyndebourne production might edge out both, despite standard DVD status.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.