Met's Season Opener: Le Nozze fi Figaro
I found - at least as presented over the Sirius broadcast, last night to be a thoroughly enjoyable "Le Nozze di Figaro" with some special moments, one being getting to know the voice of Amanda Majeski, whose quick vibrato I found to have a lovely Pilar Lorengar-ish flutter which I found enormously attractive.
While I'm no HIP-ster, Levine led a "modern opera house orchestra" performance that was brimming with life and energy.
I've heard some complaints of its dragging, but I found Levine's tempi frequently to be on the brisk side, while certain things were prone toward a Levine-ian exaggeration (which I sometimes mind and sometimes don't).
Overall, he shaped the evening with remarkable elasticity that bore the obvious stamp of his love for this opera. This was noticeable in "Dove sono", but nowhere more so than the in the first part of the Act II finale, where Figaro begins (for me) one of Mozart's most beautiful melodies at "Mente il ceffo, iogià non mento."
Last night Abdrazakov's Figaro began this moment a bit more brusquely than most (a nice effect in this lovely melody), then immediately smoothed out by Susanna and Rosina's "Il talento aguzzi invano," - until all three implore the Count to give in. Here, Levine seemed to breathe Mozart with almost imperceptible shifts of rhythm and creating a magic that brought tears to my eyes at the sheer beauty of the sound.
Not that any of this matters, but under Levine this moment occurred approximately an hour and 27 minutes into the show. Comparing it to three other recordings/performances (Salzburg 2006; the '75 Ponnelle/Bohm film with Prey, Fischer-Dieskau, Freni, Te Kanawa
&Ewing; and the HIP recording of Le Petite Band led by Kuijken) and this moment occurred, 8 minutes earlier than Salzburg, about a minute earlier than Bohm, and almost 7 minutes AFTER Kuijken! (Yes, I'm that obsessive and do this sort of thing all the time.)
Some complained about Isabel Leonard's voice being too big or mature for the character of Cherubino, but I wasn't one of them. I found the robust but still youthful sound appropriately "masculine" for this trouser role.
Marlis Petersen was charming and delighted the ear as Susanna, never once exhibiting exhaustion in this long sing (some refer to Susanna as the Brunnhilde of lyric soprano roles).
As mentioned Ildar Abdrazakov had a rougher hue to his sound than I typically like in the character of Figaro, but the basso's charm worked in his favor in creating the character, though at the upper reaches he sounded strained and faint. Still, he put his stamp on the role and while it won't go down as my favorite Figaro, he was certainly an enjoyable one.
Peter Mattei's Count Almaviva consistently offered some of the evening's finest singing and his actorly way with text served to bring to life a Count that was deeper on most levels than many present in the role, and one who reminded me of his character a few years earlier in The Barber of Seville. Marvelous work.
On an entirely different front, I got a laugh-out-loud charge from Deborah Voigt's "diva bitch fest" intermission feature, with Fleming and Co. There was a lot of talk about Fleming's upcoming "Merry Widow," but the future Hannah veered the conversation to her performances of the Countess in Paris during a political uprising, and then segued into her trip to Israel during a dangerous period. Voigt interrupted to say something along the lines of, "that's all very nice, but I want to talk about The Merry Widow." During her interview with Anna Netrebko, the Russian went on talking about how she's performed Susanna over 150 times, causing Voigt to quip how Anna was too temperamental to play the Countess. Even over the airwaves you could sense the Russian diva's irritation, before responding, "I don't like the Countess, she doesn't interest me." Voigt recovered by asking about Anna's gown, sending Nebs into a description of how the gown had been specially made for her by Yanina, the famous Russian designer who lives in Paris etc. This was followed by Mary Jo Heath's interview of Anita Rachvellischvilli, who immediately informed us she'd sung Carmen over 150 times and how her gown was also made by a famous designer, but she hates people who name drop, and he didn't feel the need her to advertise for him. Snap.
Nozze seemed an unusual choice for a season opener, but for this guy, it worked nicely. I very much look forward to seeing this production.