Le Nozze di Figaro

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aka: The Marriage of Figaro

Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Libretto: Lorenzo Da Ponte

Based on the play by Pierre Beaumarchais

First Produced: Burgtheater Vienna, 1786

Based on the play by Pierre Beaumarchais

Present Company: Teatro Real Madrid 2009

Director: Emilio Sagi

Sets: Daniel Bianco

Costumes: Renata Schussheim

Lighting: Eduardo Bravo

Choreographer: Nuria Castejón

Technical Director: Massimo Teoldi

Orchestra & Chorus of the Teatro Real Madrid

Conductor: Jesús López Cobos



Figaro: Luca Pisaroni

Susanna: Isabel Rey

Countess Almaviva: Barbara Frittoli

Count Almaviva: Ludovic Tézier

Cherubino: Marina Comparato

Marcellina: Stefania Kaulza

Doctor Bartolo: Carlos Chausson

Don Basilio: Raul Gimenez

Barbarina: Soledad Cardoso



Resolution: 1080i

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Disc size: BD-50

Opera: 41.32 GB

Bit Rate: Moderate (22~26 Mbps)

Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1

Italian LPCM 2.0 stereo

Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish & Italian

Region: All

Opera runtime: 192 minutes

Opus Arte 2011



Conception & Staging: A-

Costumes: A-

Casting: B+

Singing: A-

Orchestra: A-

Music Direction: A-

Video Direction: C

Image: A

Audio: B

Extras Features: C

Recommendation: B



This 2011 Spanish production makes for fascinating comparison to the 2006 Royal Opera House production.  Le Nozze di Figaro is based on the second of Beaumarchais’ Figaro Trilogy, the first eventually found its way into that other popular Figaro opera: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.  Emilio Sagi’s staging, with its striking lighting, garden patios, and the inclusion of a fandango - with dancers and castanets, no less - reminds us the connection of Almaviva and Rosana to Seville, as he feels Mozart would have expected.  The Spanish setting underscores why Bartolo is still fuming that it was Figaro who helped steal his ward, Rosina, for Almaviva.  So much for the good news.


The most problematic difference between this and the Royal Opera’s 2006 casting is the Susanna.  The audience will see this differently, but close-up we see that Isabel Rey is really too old (“too mature” as they say in the critical press), especially for her dashing Figaro, Luca Pisaroni; and we hear plainly that her voice is a bit squeaky.  In all fairness, this latter may be partly the fault of the audio engineering, which makes everything a little dry.  Rey is a good actress, however, even if she overplays some of her scenes.  She certainly laughs longer and harder than is useful, stepping on Marcellina’s entrance in Act 1.  Yeah, we know they are in a cold war over Figaro, but this is too much, too soon.  And while I enjoy a nice bosom as much as the next guy, I soon grew tired of designer Renata Schussheim and director Emilio Sago seeing how close to falling out of her costume they could get Isabel Rey.  Should we really be thinking that Susanna is such a tart, or were they trying to compensate for Rey’s age?  Either way, it was counterproductive.


Our countess, Barbara Frittoli, has a disturbing quiver that makes her two sensitive arias less than they should be.  She is better in the last half.  I felt she and the count, Ludovic Tézier, looked very good together, more convincing than Röschmann and Finlay, almost like siblings.  Tézier is a bit stiff, especially as compared to Gerald Finlay, the Count in the Covent Garden production, but he’s more elegantly dressed. His moment of truth comes at the last moment Contessa, perdona, which he brings off well enough that we hope she does. Luca Pisaroni makes for a youthful Figaro - just about like I always pictured the character in my mind.  Pisaroni has an expressive voice, its natural richness somewhat threatened by the audio engineering.  I doubt most listeners will complain, though.  I particularly liked his Act IV aria Aprite un po' quegli occhi.


The big plus, as compared to the Royal Opera cast, is Marina Comparato as Cherubino.  Boyish, handsome and lovesick.  I admit there were times I was fooled as to which trouser I was looking at.  I can’t think of a greater compliment.  Comparato has a sweet sound, not as dark as Rinat Shaham, whose wild hair makes her look more freakish than boyish. Comparato acts as well as she sings - with plenty of that abandon we expect from Cherubino.  I found the two main supporting actors (Graciela Araya as Marcellina and Jonathan Veira as Doctor Bartolo) more intriguing and funnier in the Royal Opera performance, though Stefania Kaulza and Carlos Chausson are a satisfying couple and perfectly capable in every way.  The chorus is only fair.  The ensemble is generally quite good, though at the outset soloists and orchestra lose their way briefly.



Emilio Sagi’s set is a brilliant design, but the light, of which there is a great deal, tends to overexposure in the first act and threatens it in the second.  In Act 1 there is an abundance of light over the outdoor patio behind the main action in Figaro’s room which, when anyone stands under it, completely overwhelms the camera sensor.  Similarly, in the second act, which takes place in the countess’ strongly window-lit chamber, Eduardo Bravo’s intentionally naturalistic lighting competes with the action. Because of how the eye/brain system works, the audience would see these scenes differently and would not be aware of a lighting error. Not trying to beat a crippled horse, but I should mention that there are also occasional focusing problems: note Bartolo’s first aria as he walks to and fro.


The last two acts have no such difficulties. Quite the contrary.  Sagi’s staging of the final act in the garden at night beats McVicar’s lazy approach at Covent Garden all to hell, but steps on its own foot - at least for the video audience - by staging so much of it behind the scrim.  The scrim is well used in the previous acts as a room and space divider but here there simply isn’t enough light behind the scrim to yield that wonderful dimensional effect it was able to bring off earlier.  In the last act its only dramatic function is to allow Figaro to sneak out in front of it well in to the act and address the audience directly in his final aria, after which Sagi raises the scrim. It works well in the moment, but is it worth the wait?  I thought not.


The sound in 5.1, compared to the stereo mix, is better all around: the orchestra is richer, though still a tad brittle, and the voices more liquid. It helps the harpsichord continuo in the recitatives, however.  The audio does not compare with the richness and texture that the Royal Opera engineers bring forth, but it is suitable and a bit more sensibly balanced in surround mode.  Jesús López Cobos moves his orchestra at a brisk pace, sometimes (note the first scene with Figaro and Susanna) despite his singers’ wishes to slow down for a natural rallentando near the end of verse.  Everyone gets on the same page by the start of the second act.


In the bonus feature A Perfect Opera (13:15) stage director Emilio Sagi and conductor Jesús López Cobos, discuss Mozart’s opera more complementarily and respectfully than insightfully. Sagi protests more than is necessary that his inclusion of a choreographed fandango in which the bridal couple take part is what Mozart intended.  I’m less persuaded by the castanets, which tend to overwhelm the aural picture.  A decent, if unessential bonus item.

All in all, while there is much to recommend the performance and staging, it doesn’t come off quite as well on video as I imagine it did in performance.


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

May 23, 2012

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