Le Nozze di Figaro Review: One of Those Cases When Opera Underwhelms

The Metropolitan Opera House in New York tries to bring out its very best on Saturday nights, but the beauty of the opera is that despite being a grand art it still succumbs to human imperfections. 

Likewise, elements of the show will captivate, move, and inspire the audience. It was in such balance that the staging of the Mozart’s classic Le Nozze di Figaro was performed last night using the 1998 stage design by Jonathan Miller.

Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) revolves around the inner workings of the palace life, with the Count desiring his “rights” with the bride to be; the bride wanting to remain faithful to her boyfriend Figaro and to preserve the honor of the Countess; a boy who sleeps around and has fun; and a variety of scheming servants all with their own individual agendas trying to marry someone whom they have no business trying to seduce or ever try to impress. Figaro finds a way to trick the Count and with the help of his bride to be, succeeds in securing an honest Christian wedding. In short, this opera is as much entertainment as it is social commentary of its time, showing the absurdity of the then existent class structure and notions of purity and devotion.

The cast breaks down in three categories: above, at, and below expectations. Maija Kovalevska was definitely above expectations. Despite having a cold she came through with the warmth and trauma of a wife worried about the alleged infidelity of her husband and concerned for her own honor. Only in the third act did her voice show signs of weakness. Gerald Finley once again showed why he is the go-to-guy for the role of the Count. Aldar Abdrazakov proved that he could handle a complex role and performed well in the leading role. Maurizio Muraro and Margaret Lattimore performed at expectations as the menacing Doctor Bartolo and Marcellina. Sadly, the roles of Susanna and Cherubino fell flat. Mojca Erdmann got off to screeching start in the first act and never managed to fill the hall with her voice and our Cherubino (Christine Schafer) failed to inspire.

This fast moving piece requires an incredible cast who can not only sign the incredibly difficult and long arias, but those who can act out the scenes, and a conductor who can control the tonality and multidimensionality of the music. In the area of music, the Met may have found a great and relatively new talent in David Robertson, who was incredible in his keeping stage and music order, but showed incredible passion and understanding of the music and the appreciation of how to build up audience expectation for what was to come. Additionally, maestro Robertson did not hold back following wonderful renditions of arias and would quickly stick the baton under his armpit and applaud along with the appreciative audience.

 David Robertson, the Met Choir, and the Met orchestra were the real stars of Saturday night!

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Lev Sviridov

Lev is an Acting Director of the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College and a Senior Research Associate of the CUNY Energy Institute at The City College of New York, specializing in the chemistry of Manganese Dioxide for grid scale energy storage applications. Additionally, Lev serves on the board of Concord Consortium, Human Rights First, and the 21st Century Foundation.

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