Friday, October 02, 2009

Met: Le Nozze di Figaro

Water fountain at the met

Le Nozze di Figaro
Metropolitan Opera

Thursday, October 1, 2009, 8:00 pm

Conductor: Dan Ettinger

Countess Almaviva: Emma Bell
Susanna: Danielle de Niese
Cherubino: Isabel Leonard
Count Almaviva: Bo Skovhus
Figaro: John Relyea
Don Bartolo: Maurizio Muraro
Marcellina: Wendy White
Don Basilio: Philip Langridge
Antonio: Patrick Carifizzi
Don Curzio: Ton Stevenson
Barbarina: Ashley Emerson

Production: Jonathan Miller

I had never heard of conductor Dan Ettinger before, & I found him quite impressive. He led with varied & flexible tempos & seemed to have ideas for nearly every bar of the score, starting with the Overture, which had some careful dynamic contrasts. He conducted with a closed score for most of the evening, which seems both risky & a bit cocky.

As last night, the cast was remarkably uniform & of a high level. With both John Relyea & Bo Skovhus, we had 2 manly baritones on stage. Mr. Relyea was a bundle of energy & intelligence, while Mr. Skovhus looks the part of a successful seducer, even though he was constantly being foiled throughout the evening. Emma Bell's majestic soprano contrasted effectively with Danielle de Niese's youthful & spritely voice. Isabel Leonard gave a winning & elegant performance as Cherbino & was a clear audience favorite. And smaller roles were extremely well-done. Philip Langridge was hilarious as the toadying Don Basilio, & Wendy White's motherly Marcellina was a completely rounded-out character.

The production by Jonathan Miller is naturalistic, humorous, & firmly set in the correct 18th century period. I liked some of the contextual details, such as the swarm of people trying to get into the Countess's room every time the door opened. The Countess also seems to have a young daughter & a baby, though there was some debate about whether those are really supposed to be her children. The huge indoor set in Act III rotates spectacularly to transition smoothly into the outdoor scene of Act IV.

I sat in the family circle level along the left side. At this position, nearly over the pit, the orchestral sound is astonishingly vivid. It is admittedly a poor view of the stage, even if one leans over the railing, which feels both uncomfortable & precarious. From this high vantage, I caught a 2nd violinist returning into the pit late at the beginning of Act II. Also inadvertently entertaining is the occasional sight of the prompter's hands, sometimes waving hysterically when a lot of performers are on stage. For those who enjoy reading scores instead of watching the stage, there are desks provided with lamps. The desks have no view of the stage or the Met titles.

During the intermission I was a guest of an officer of the John Relyea #1 Fan Club, who was holding court in the Grand Tier Restaurant & modeling the club's striking T-shirt. Those fan club members really know how to show their devotion!


L. Strether said...

Axel, are you doing an all-Mozart Met vacation with Ms. D? I can't wait to see Danielle De Niese when she finally shows up in SF- whenever that will be. I may have to get a t-shirt made.

Please post a picture from the Grand Tier court session of the Relyea fan club.

The Opera Tattler said...

I didn't realize that this performance had both Relyea and Skovhus, I've heard both of them sing their respective roles in San Francisco and Munich, but not with one another. At least, not that I remember!

Wendy White was so great as Erda it is hard for me to imagine her as Marcellina. Apparently she is a fine actor, from what I've read.

Axel Feldheim said...

Strether: I just realized myself that I did indeed hear 3 different Mozart operas within about a week. I think it's a very healthy operatic diet! I would not blame you for showing up with a Danielle de Niese t-shirt at one of her performances. She's appearing at LPR next week, & I'm sure the place will be jammed.

Tattler: With 2 such manly baritones in the cast, there was a lot of testosterone on that stage last night. Wendy White was quite a good singer & actress as Marcellina. It's the kind of performance that make me wish they would restore her always cut Act IV aria. I can imagine that she does a convincing Erda.

Gavin Plumley said...

As you're in New York, you'll have to visit the Neue Galerie for me... good to hear your Mozart reviews, though the idea of Mozart in that barn leaves me cold.

Axel Feldheim said...

Entartete: I should have guessed you would be interested in a visit to the Neue Gallerie! It is on my radar, & I hope to have a chance to take a peek at their Kokoschka exhibit.

You are not alone in being in fear of hearing Mozart in that huge house. Certainly when I saw that gigantic set start to rotate, I could not think of anything less Mozartian! On the other hand, the acoustic from the family circle left nothing to be desired. We heard Emma Bell's pianissimo perfectly from up there, even though some seated in the orchestra complained that it was inaudible.

& it must be said that the Julie Taymor Zauberflöte is irresistible. Being designed a bit like a Broadway musical, it works very well in that large house.

Immanuel Gilen said...

I'm glad you got a good Mozart conductor. I'm starting to think those are really spread thin.

Axel Feldheim said...

Immanuel: I think good conductors of any sort are few & far between!

Immanuel Gilen said...

That seems like the type of wisdom that will only come with age - I've only come to that realization with Mozart - yet.