DRESS-FITTING: A FESTIVE OCCASION
The great production, the new Figaro à la Iván Fischer long-awaited and advertised for half a year did not let us down. The individual and global performance of internationally renowned artists, the virtuosity of the orchestra which made us fly, Fischer's way of conducting, which was adjusted smoothly to the acting and suggestive at the same time, the carefully considered scenery generated exactly the effect they were meant to bring about: the perfect symbiosis of music and acting on the stage, and the perfect interplay between music and directing, complementing, assisting, strengthening and supporting one another.
We were not disappointed with the great production long-awaited and advertised for half a year, the new Figaro à la Iván Fischer, which revolved around the cavalcade of costumes, changing dresses and transforming the self into somebody else, into a disguise. The Figaro four years ago also directed by Fischer was this time not an opera with only symbolic or indicative scenery, it was a fully-fledged representative of this genre. Though the theatrical stage was only represented by a small podium and an even smaller stand, while the scenery consisted of two impressive doors and a rolling coat rack, this seemed to be perfectly sufficient for the opera performance to be perfect. Because it was exactly what Iván Fischer wanted to achieve: to create a new genre, to enrich the scenery of the performance four years ago, to make it more colourful. We can only hope that the success, the warm welcome of the production will set a trend.
The artistic concept – according to the conductor’s statements made prior the three consecutive performances – was to create unity in directing and music, i.e. the unity of developments on the stage and in music. Because (although to our understanding it was only implied and not explicitly said by the conductor, who has also mastered the art of diplomacy) our opera stages are still dominated by outdated, dusty, worn out “rhetoric”. Or the director’s symbolism is so strong (see Salzburg) that it is an autonomous statement itself. I suppose that Iván Fischer, as a good leader, and in addition to his intention of keeping everything in one hand, wanted the directing to maintain its virtuosity, modernity and the importance of acting, whilst achieving perfect harmony between the mentioned factors and Mozart’s music. Mission accomplished, though I am quite sure that this can only be achieved the way they did it: together with the singers, on the same stage, in a concert hall, without the orchestra pit.
The individual and global performance of internationally renowned artists, the virtuosity of the orchestra which made us fly, Fischer’s way of conducting, which was adjusted smoothly to the acting and suggestive at the same time, the profoundly considered scenery generated exactly the effect they were meant to bring about: the perfect symbiosis of music and acting on the stage, and the perfect interplay between music and directing, complementing, assisting, strengthening and supporting one another. Hanno Müller–Brachmann (student of Dietrich Fischer–Dieskau) in the title role is not only extremely attractive, but a genuine Figaro as well: rich, full baritone, also strong in the bass registers. His appearance makes him a perfect Figaro, he is amiably good-looking, but not a simple Simon, a nice, amicable, quick-witted guy, who cannot be caught in any sense of the word. Then, there is this beauty, deservedly grown into the status of a star, Swedish soprano Miah Persson (for the interview with Miah Persson see the Spring 2013 issue of the printed version of Gramofon), whose blondness would be enough to sell the whole production, but of course, that would not be enough to produce a perfect experience. We had the privilege of hearing her exceptionally cultured, shining, expressive, emotive and colourful voice and see her acting on the recording of the Cosi in Glyndebourne in 2006, and all this was taken to another level in Salzburg, in the production of Cosi in 2009 directed by Claus Guth, the formidable director genius, a decisive artist with a unique artistic perspective. Persson so far has appeared as Susanna, most recently in October in the Staatsoper in Vienna, but now she made her debut as the Countess. She is not a soubrette any longer, but a thoughtful, mature woman with her tormenting pains. Her acting was perfect again, the quintessence of which was there in her very first aria, the Porgi amor… She was so credible and authentic as the Countess, who is in love and barely able to cope with her sorrow, that we find it hard to believe what she says in the interview, namely that Susanna is closer to her real character and personality.
On the other hand, the performance of Romanian-American soprano Laura Tatulescu was not quite there for me in terms of musical quality, though we do not know how sparing she was with her voice. She is likely to have had some health problems as during the dress rehearsal she did not even sing, only acted, and the cembalist sang her part. However, her stage appearance is sparkling, fascinating, her lively and fresh way of acting is quite convincing. Looking at the other characters I wish to emphasise the performance of Robert Lloyd, the British baritone, who was great in the role of Bartholo, both in terms of his musical performance and acting. It is not by chance that he received the loudest applause after his aria. Of the female characters, Ann Murray in the role of Marcellina was outstanding with her voice, the richest of all female voices. Their duet, first wreaking havoc then defusing the tension was excellent, their formidable talent was obvious from very first moment of their performance. Rachel Frenkel, the young mezzosoprano is the best Cherubino I have ever seen, though she sang louder during the dress rehearsal than during the third performance. Those in minor roles were also exceptional. Frenchman Rodolphe Briand in the role of Basilio was so remarkable that he could not deny he started his career as an actor and director. The only Italian singer of the ensemble, Matteo Peirone, playing the gardener, was also colourful.
All this only proves the words of the Director of the Festival Orchestra, Stefan Englert in the glossy brochure: Fischer thinks in terms of a cast that functions as a whole. It was only the Count, the internationally renowned Roman Trekel, whose performance did not meet my expectations. He fitted into the whole set-up as a character, but to me his voice sounded a bit dull, matt. In this role, it is indeed difficult to outperform Ludovic Tésier’s vicious, extremely powerful and effective Almaviva. Barbarina’s aria is the shortest Mozart-aria, but the promising French Norma Nahoun – peeping out from behind the dress of the Countess – put so much energy and emotion into that search for the saint needle as if she had been singing about her own passionate love. And Iván Fischer, the unquestionable Mozart-interpreter, was part of the glamorous fancy dress party directed by him, sometimes a hippy, other times wearing a grey wig. Though if there is somebody who does not need to be disguised, it’s him.
Alexandra Kozár, gramofon.hu