Welsh National Opera's le Nozze Di Figaro

By Evans, Rian | Musical Opinion, June 2001 | Go to article overview

Welsh National Opera's le Nozze Di Figaro


Evans, Rian, Musical Opinion


Any production of Le Nozze di Figaro which is blessed with Nuccia Focile as Susanna cannot really fail. In Welsh National Operas new Spring season production, which opened at Cardiff's New Theatre on 10 February, her vitality, musical acuity and eminently credible characterisation was simply a delight.

Having tremendously admired Australian Neil Armfield's production of Billy Budd for WNO and Opera Australia, I had expected great things in this collaboration with Baroque specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini: and but for one fundamental objection to the casting my expectations might have been fulfilled. Giving the role of Count Almaviva to as strong a personality as Gidon Saks is already something of a risk; for the production team to indulge him as they did here is to tip the Mozartean balance a touch indelicately. Since it is the vexed question of the ancient droit de seigneur which underpins the plot, there is much to be said for emphasing the larger than life but predatory charm of the Count, a bully in velvet. But adopting an unnecessarily heavyhanded touch where Mozart uses legerdemain is surely ill advised and handing the Count an axe to break down the Countess' wardrobe door was just one instance of this productions taking a sledgehammer to the proverbial nut. Of Saks' artistry there can be no question; the voice is distinctive and dramatic and he has considerable stage presence. Yet one cannot but conclude that he is better suited to 19th- and 20th-Century music than the finesse of Mozart. …

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