THE MARRIAGE OF IVÁN FISCHER
With the consent of 'Élet és Irodalom'
Musicians still do not want to believe that the directing of operas is a profession. I am not saying that they are very wrong, yes there is a great number of operas that can be staged by someone with experience and a bit of common sense, but sometimes they do not even have to be staged, it is enough just to sing them. But nobody has ever thought of reversing the whole thing and inviting, for example, Judit Galgóczi (director) to conduct a gala concert of the Festival Orchestra. Iván Fischer, however, has no difficulty directing The Marriage of Figaro.
There is indeed no problem with his staging of the opera, which as a spectacle, a visual experience, is ugly, but it has a governing concept. According to this concept it is a comedy of exchanging costumes, with all the consequences and deeper meaning, the revolution is in the offing, the tricolour is waved in the opera, and there is no big difference between the master and his servant, men wear the same type of trousers and have matching desires, the same type of desires, and women are even mixed up, so there you go!
But no. No matter if it is set in a certain period of history, no matter if there is an idea, a concept, a foundation, the problem is that the relationship between the characters seems to be far more important than any wigs and farthingales. To give you a simple example: in the third act, Susanna and the Count have a duet. Susanna asks the man out on a date, of course this is only a trap, but in spite of that, the situation is extremely dangerous. They stand next to each other, the Count whispers into the ears of the woman in his most velvety voice, and Susanna tempts the Count but at the same time she tries to keep her distance from him, she needs to be attractive but careful at the same time, as there is nobody else in the room, only the two of them. The Count, slowly but surely loses his mind and Susanna concentrates so much that she mixes up the words, and says no for a yes and vice versa. This can be staged, as in the MÜPA just now, with the two characters standing at the two sides of the podium, at the top of two flights of stairs, and it must express and demonstrate very tangibly the distance or social divide or whatever between them, but who is interested in the social divide when much more serious things are at stake?
Maybe this is not the most important thing about it either. What is important is that the singers standing 5 metres away from each other cannot sing the duet as they should. Though it is questionable whether Roman Trekel could at all sing the duet as he should, because the shape of his head is far more interesting than his voice, his skull is so elegant as that of some extra-terrestrial, as opposed to his voice, which is rather “terrestrial”, down-to-earth, a dull baritone with little colour, little strength; what is more, he is not overly active in the ensembles, letting others do the job.
The other male protagonist, Hanno Müller-Brachmann makes a slightly better impression. He is boring in the beginning and only the high notes are awkward, but all in all, his performance is more than acceptable. The rest of the cast belong to the international lower-first class, there is no point in expecting more than that from them. Thus it is the older generation who gives us the most, the great Robert Lloyd, and Ann Murray, who is even greater than him this evening, for whose sake it would have been worthwhile reinstating the aria of Marcellina, but there is no use crying over spilt milk.
And then there is the real protagonist, the real hero, the Festival Orchestra, who give a real meaning to The Marriage of Figaro: we won’t hear such a Figaro at the Opera House, no way. I would be happy to add “for the time being”, but “the time being” will not pass by in the foreseeable future. I do not really know what is out of reach in the Opera. Probably everything, the nice sound of the clarinet, the firmness of the timpani, the marked and soldierly cracking of the brass, which remains only a flavour and not a rude effect. Violins and second violins, and Iván Fischer, the conductor, who is also part of the play, walking, sitting, standing on the stage as earlier in Don Giovanni directed by Ljubimov. And so we have indeed returned to the opera, but only to remember. Actually, we are climbing up, progressing, a gala instead of the routine. Not flawless, but a gala.