Magazine article The Spectator

Mozart Magic

Magazine article The Spectator

Mozart Magic

Article excerpt

Le nozze di Figaro

Royal Opera House, in rep until 3 July

The Pearl Fishers

English National Opera, in rep until 8 July

A Midsummer Night's Dream

English Touring Opera, in Cambridge

The Marriage of Figaro, in a fine performance, makes an impression different from that of any other opera.

Almost all the characters are in a state of anxiety or rage or misery or frustrated lustfulness throughout, and they are vividly portrayed in the round; yet the listener is in a constant state of joy, from the mutinous opening scurryings of the overture onwards.

When it is as marvellously conducted as at the Royal Opera, by Colin Davis, what is always a pleasure becomes more than that, and one ends in ecstasy, feeling both that one knows the truth about human beings, and that, despite it all, there is an underlying value and lovableness in them.

Davis's Mozart hasn't so much changed over the years as deepened. It is pleasingly disregardful of fashion: the winds don't bark at you, the strings are warm rather than edgy, speeds are on the whole moderate. It feels, sounds, natural, unforced. I noticed dozens of things I hadn't heard before, but never felt that they were being thrust at me.

David McVicar's production still annoys with its fussiness, its overpopulation and its impertinence in acting out the overture, but the male characters at least are wonderfully drawn. I have never seen a production in which the Count and Figaro are so ferociously antagonistic that it seems that fisticuffs are inevitable. Erwin Schrott's Figaro is lived in every note and movement, and with his gorgeous voice this is as complete a Mozart characterisation as I have seen. Mariusz Kwiecien's Count is in the same league, and their confrontations are highlights of an opera which is, in truth, all highlights. The leading female roles aren't cast quite so strongly, and Eri Nakamura as Susanna saved herself for 'Deh vieni', but her account of that was so delicious you almost forgave her. Jurgita Adamonyte's Cherubino is too petite in all respects, though charming Annette Dasch's Countess is on the grand scale, and her forgiveness at the end is overwhelming. This was an evening in a thousand.

The word 'hokum' seems to have departed the language, but the ENO's new production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers makes it imperative that it returns, for both the work and the production are completely covered by it. Fishers provides, of course, the Nation's Favourite Duet, which arrives early on, and is remembered fairly often throughout the score. …

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