I think Gerald Finley must be stalking me. When I’m in San Francisco, he’s there. When I am in London, there he is again. Don’t get the wrong idea – I don’t mind this. He’s a nice looking young man, but really, Gerald, I’m too old for you.
He is actually here at the Royal Opera playing the count in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro – for me the essential Mozart piece for this Mozart year.
In this conservative Figaro production the stage was occupied by people not written in by Mozart and da Ponte, namely the count’s rather large staff of retainers, of which Figaro and Susanna are two. They are seen mopping, dusting, carrying, standing about and eavesdropping on everything. They come eagerly to the windows and doors to stare in at the action. One woman appeared to be a kind of housekeeper or mistress of ceremonies. I felt this worked extremely well, giving the drama a context in reality.
All three of the Mozart / da Ponte collaborations have the unique power of feeling contemporary in every era. In the case of Cosi we see ourselves and wish we didn’t. Perhaps this is true of Don Giovanni as well, but Figaro is the essential Mozart because we never feel the separation from the characters at any point. They love and hurt and feel jealousy exactly as we do. The opera keeps this sense of essential humanity as the decades and even centuries pass.
A complaint: Who knew that Marcellina had an aria? Who knew that Don Basilio had an aria? Why do I need to know this? Though I must admit that it is amusing to hear Marcellina, sung by Graciela Araya, take Susanna's side in the conflict between Figaro and Susanna now that she is her daughter-in-law and not her rival.
Gerald Finley is a lovely singer and he had some very nice music to sing here. I didn’t quite realize before how beautiful his voice is. All were very good without being great. This is only as it should be, because in Figaro life is the star.
I would have to ask my memory (DE) if I have seen any of these people before besides Finley. I rather liked the countess of Dorothea Röschmann, but then it’s hard to completely mess up her glorious music. Erwin Schrott and Miah Persson made a very attractive Figaro and Susanna.
At the end of the opera where they all sing about the joy of love, the lights came up to include all of us.
[See Kinderkuchen History 1780-1803]