Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Architecture and Mozart: A Sublime Glyndebourne Moment
Le Nozze di Figaro that opened the new theater at Glyndebourne back in 1994, but it's one of the most enthralling opera performances I've ever encountered.
With Bernard Haitink in the pit, and singers like a young Renee Fleming as the Countess, Andreas Schmidt as the Count, and a boyishly handsome Gerald Finley as Figaro, it's beautifully sung and, under Derek Bailey's direction, skillfully acted. Too often in opera, you get the sense that the singers are just going the motion of establishing characters, but here the acting is natural and unforced. Rather than a series of disconnected moments within long periods of just standing and singing, here the performers register what appears to be a continuous stream of thought and emotion. Beyond the beautiful music, you get the sense that something is really at stake dramatically. Truth be told, I've fallen hopelessly in love with Alison Hagley and her radiant Susanna.
The production, on the surface, could be classified as conservative. It's not updated - sets and costumes are of the period indicated in the libretto - but it's absolutely modern in its clarity of expression. There is no clutter. The sets, by John Gunter, are simple, representational and flexible. The conclusion of the opera is set in a blue night forest consisting entirely of black shafts bent like the columns of a Koolhaas/Balmond interior (or, alternatively, you could think of them as lingering hair follicles on a balding skull.)(Or not.)
The sequence that took my breath away, however, was the brief transition between scenes in the third act, which you can view at about the 38:00 minute mark in the video below. (I'm betting it'll convince you to buy the DVD.)
The great march - one of my favorite bits of Mozart - begins to play, the stage empties except for the seriously conflicted countess and count as they prepare to greet their guests for a double wedding.
The silhouettes emerge into the light to be revealed again as flesh. The players disperse from formation. The action resumes, back into a comedy of bitter pain and desperate longing, on its way to ultimate reconciliation in deepest emotion.