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Review: Le Nozze di Figaro @ The Metropolitan Opera

December 7th, 2009
The Metropolitan Opera production of Le Nozze di Figaro.  Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times .

The Metropolitan Opera production of Le Nozze di Figaro. Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times .

This past week I attended the Friday performance of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), a comedic opera with some clever aristocratic satire and a fine score.  Admittedly, this was my first live performance at the Met, so I can’t present myself as much of a connoisseur.  But as always, I’ve got an opinion.

I had been to other performances at Lincoln Center, but had not yet attended the Metropolitan Opera and I was immediately stunned by the grandeur of the House.  Living 50 yards away for two years, it’s never been terribly impressed by the exterior of Lincoln Center and truly only appreciated the new Alice Tully, with Carnegie Hall and Radio City serving as my preferred setting as opposed to the old Alice Tully or Avery Fisher Halls.

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The performance starts with Mozart’s classic Overture: Le Nozze di Figaro.  If you had told me before last night that this tune was from an opera, I could not have accurately answered, as it is commonly performed as chamber music.

The opera was crafted by Mozart based on the stage play La Folle Journee, ou le Mariage de Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais and is set as a continuation of The Barber of Seville.  The plot was not always simple to follow, as my Italian is pretty much limited to what Adam Sandler taught me as Opera Man.

But the Opera House features one of the more fun technological advances for opera: on-seat, multi-lingual subtitles for each attendee which are viewable only to each individual.  They don’t distract and give you the opportunity to follow the plot and catch the more pronounced jokes.

And there are plenty of jokes, though I’m still certain I was entirely aware of what was going on half the time.  Figaro is set to marry Susanna, a fellow servant of the Count and Contessa Almavilla.  What lost me a bit is that it is unclear if Susanna is being pursued by all of Figaro, the Count Almavilla, the soldier Cherubino and possibly also Don Bartolo, or if Susanna is in fact shacking up with the lot of them.  Though the implication is that she is at least somewhat true to Figaro, it sure seems like she and Cherubino are close.

Mozart is brilliant in his composition, though the script was not always my cup of tea.

Mozart is brilliant in his composition, though the script was not always my cup of tea.

Beginning the performance as Susanna was the charismatic Danielle de Niese.  Although both she and Isabel Leonard (as Cherubino) are a bit over the top in their performances at times, that de Niese succumbed to a viral infection and was replaced by her understudy at the intermission took away from Acts III and IV.

Luca Pisaroni and Ludovic Tezier were consistently excellent as Figaro and the Count, but the scene stealer was Angela Meade (a native of Centralia, Washington) as the Countess.  She has the voice, and the figure, one imagines when they think of an internationally renowned star.  Undoubtedly she possesses one of the most unique and powerful vocal instruments I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy in person.

All in all, the experience was excellent.  Both for a great date and purely for the enjoyment of it all.  Mozart’s work is, well, by the greatest musical artist of all time.   The story is successfully comedic and dramatic, although the pace drags heavily in Act IV.

For a more critical and professional review, the Times weighs in, although it appears the cast differed in many ways from November to December.

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