Phenomenal Figaro

Authentic performances should take place in authentic venues! I’ve had enough of attending, for example, Mozart operas in giant spaces like that of Covent Garden and paying for the privilege of seeing the performance from a distant outpost among the gods.

The performance of ”Le Nozze di Figaro” in beautiful Montecarlo’s eighteenth century Teatro degli Rassicurati was a truly authentic performance (yes, the scaled down orchestral arrangement for five strings and one flute was contemporary with Mozart) in a charmingly authentic venue.

The quality of the presentation was astounding, coming from young singers at the start of their career. Lavinia Bini’s Susanna was lively and in great voice. Margherita Rotondi’s Cherubino was equally mesmeric and Figaro himself, Mattia Campetti (who was also producer) all what one could wish for the role. A revelation was Claudio Sassetti’s interpretation of the character of Basilio – very funny and expressive indeed – he does excel in comic roles.

The chorus was also noteworthy, including Grapevine’s own young writer competition winner for this year, Hannah Moss, studying singing in Lucca from across the big pond. Young singers, too, have the advantage that they can act and move well on the stage (before, in many cases excessive fat steps in…) and in a crazy, fast-moving scenario like Figaro (subtitle “ossia la folle giornata”) this does help!

The conductor, Jonathan Brandani, has to be one of the major emerging stars from the Lucca music scene. Already he has made a name for himself in such different countries as Austria, the USA, Romania and Russia. Indeed, he has conducted “Figaro” in no less exalted place than Vienna’s Schonbrunn palace. I was amazed at the way Brandani combined the role of conductor and recitative accompanying harpsichord with such effortless ease.

Here are some scenes and the finale from the opera:

The theatre was packed and I was lucky to get a seat. Although somewhat near to the orchestra (in particular, the cello) this did not upset my enjoyment of the evening’s performance. This is the opera ambience I love – not the mass urbanity of Covent Garden nor the exclusive snobbishness of Glyndebourne; not the football fanaticism of La Scala nor the tourist honey-pot of Verona but the intimate, civilized, warm atmosphere of a theatre like gli Rassicurati where you almost feel you have received a personal invitation from a local Count to his own private playhouse where he has collected the most talented of his musician friends to put on a performance whose main aim is to delight and provoke seductive thoughts.

In the centre of Montecarlo, with a facade indistinguishable from the other buildings, the theatre’s interior is a joy to behold with its oval plan, twenty-eight boxes on two levels, and sweet rococo floral and drape decorations. Its foundation dates back to 1795 when the Academia degli Rassicurati commissioned the design from Florentine construction engineer Antonio Capretti.

It’s incredible to think that this theatre was considered ripe for demolition in 1966, so far had it then decayed and been neglected. What a loss that would have been for all playgoers! Fortunately, thanks to a concerted campaign with strong local support, the theatre was saved for posterity as the plaques inside it show. Puccini would have very happy, too, at this positive, outcome since he often visited the theatre in the company of his sister Ramelde.

(Yet, in the same decade, in my former area of residence Woolwich – an area now irremediably and sadly linked with its 2011 riots and 2013 decapitation of a soldier – wonderful Victorian music-hall and opera theatres  -of which Woolwich once had five- were destroyed, some to be replaced by multi-storied car parks and Tescoes!)

Here are some extracts from that evening’s performance. Please excuse the somewhat unusual viewing angle and the often bad sound balance – I can assure you that attending the performance was a lot more enjoyable that it seems from these videos! First, that hit tune “Non Più andrai” sung by  Mattia Campi’s Figaro

Then Margherita Rotoni’s Cherubino gorgeous canzonetta”Voi che sapete”

And finally that mad finale from act two:

Two things I shall NOT want to miss are the Mozart-Da Ponte sequels at the same teatro later this summer: “Don Giovanni” and “Così fan Tutte“!

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5 thoughts on “Phenomenal Figaro

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