MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
Sinister coat racks stand menacingly on the podium, but fortunately they were not borrowed from The Seagull played in the National Theatre. Instead of our coats, it is the costumes of the characters that are hanging on them. Unbelievable hustle and bustle, the characters dress up during the allegretto in the overture, they put on and take off clothes and wigs and disguises. The lavish cavalcade already gives us a taste of Iván Fischer’s talent as a director, which I daresay equals his talent as a conductor.
And Figaro starts to sing, we have rarely ever, if at all, heard such a bass-baritone, in addition to being brassy and manly, it is elastic, balanced and nuanced. The handsome Hanno Müller-Brachmann would even outperform professional actors, he is so natural and alive on the stage, which immediately transforms the opera podium into a theatre stage. We hate operas with minimalist scenery, the low-quality Wagner-productions of the MÜPA, the horrible “broadcasts”, the scenery signalling nothing, the masks, puppets and clumsy dancers so far have invariably forced me to flee in panic, in spite of the unquestionably high-quality performance of the musicians and singers. Here, however, the two flights of stairs at the two sides of the stage and the elevated podium in the background create a perfect illusion. The characters swiftly hide behind the doors and the armchair, they are always in sight, and thankfully so, we always hear them, not even the murderous acoustics of the hangar-sized stage absorbs their voices. In this stunt they are greatly assisted by the brilliant orchestra, frenetic dynamics and strong accents, but the wonderful accompaniment never covers the vocal parts, not even in the recitativos. Ann Murray, as Marcellina, is a mature mezzo, whereas Rachel Frenkel offers us fairy-like moments as Cherubino. Countess Rosina, Miah Persson accomplishes her task in piano-mezzoforte, incredibly delicate, elegant and ethereal, she is capable of softly emphasising a counterpointing phrase even in a duet. At the dress rehearsal Anne-Catherine Gillet was present only with her radiating beauty, due to problems with her vocal cords she had to be replaced by Gábor Bartinai as Susanna, with a live play-back. He sang with amazing empathy.
And the others, blimey! They should also be mentioned: merry and spirited students of the academy of theatrical arts are all over the place, brisk, excellent in the pantomime as well as in the choir. We feel as if we were at the theatre, what we see is a comedy with expressive characters, a lot of ideas and humour – in a superb musical context. Count Almaviva is the peak in this realm of heavenly pleasures, his tall, bald figure and expressive gestures make him worthy of our attention, he indeed deserves to be in the focus. The evocative and nuanced declamation of Roman Trekel, his natural, superior technique and flexible voice enable him to paint the portrait of the high-ranking aristocrat and the man, tossing about between two extremes. His character is perfectly credible from the perspective of both acting and singing.
We have never liked Mozart, the mandatory adoration, the overwhelming routine, the commonplaces that have become classical hits have alienated us from him. Terribly enough, I liked him most in the Forman movie… It was now that we realised his awesome operatic achievement, now we saw and heard his sparkling genius. (How is it possible to humiliate him as much as they did in Don Giovanni, in the Opera? Or as much as those bungled symphonies do with their metronome tick-tack?!?)
Operas are for us! But only from the Festival Orchestra, directed and conducted by Iván Fischer, many times and a lot, as soon as possible, even at the dearest Academy of Music!