I was fortunate enough to secure a ticket to go and see the dress rehearsal of Glyndebourne’s revival of last year’s Le Nozze di Figaro yesterday evening, and I emerged into the late evening summer sunshine somewhat bemused, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Should I have come out walking on air at the brilliance of the production, the sheer levity and joy in so many of the performances, the open delight of the wedding scene at the end of Act III, or should I have been profoundly saddened by the gentle nobility of the Countess, expressing her suffering through the loftiest and most refined music of the work?
In all it was the best evening I can remember spending in an opera house, and I recommend it heartily, especially as many of these productions now find their way to the proverbial cinema near you.
Of course, it hardly harms things that you have a brilliant librettist, Da Ponte, able to shade his characters in all manner of light and dark, allied to a fiercely ambitious and wildly talented young composer, working together for the first time to produce one of the enduring masterpieces of the genre.
But Figaro is subversive, too, and only three years before the French decided that they had had enough of their own royalty. The servant getting one over on the master, the droit du seigneur laid aside (pardon the pun) and all the rest of it. It must have shocked many when they first saw it, but in Prague, not this particular musical prophet’s home land, of course, they loved it and paid Mozart to write Don Giovanni the following year.
There was so much to admire in this production. The staging of Cherubino’s Voi che sapete was like some exquisite oil painting, making me tearily emotional at the very thought, while the letter scene (so, so brilliantly written) expressed Susanna’s emotional superiority over the Countess in a manner which was at once subtle and direct.
The audience was held in the palm of the performers’ hands throughout, orchestra and singers, and no self-respecting music lover should miss the chance to see this when it comes to the cinema screen. I shall definitely go to see it again, and feel hugely privileged to have been given the opportunity to experience it in the flesh.