In Don Giovanni, Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte presented their famous hero as a sexual predator rather than a lover. A year earlier they wrote another opera about a sexual predator but the first time around his schemes where less successful, as the women, his potential victims, were much shrewder than him. The result is a dazzling romp filled with masquerading of all sorts.
Figaro and Susanna, valet and maid, are about to get married. Their employer, Count Almaviva, who has gotten some praise for aborting the old “droit du seigneur” – his right to bed a servant girl on her wedding night – is now trying to exercise it anyway, as he lusts after Susanna. Together with the Countess Rosina, the Count’s page Cherubino and her husband to be, Susanna plots her way out of the Counts trap. And there are many more subplots and people hiding under beds and falling into gardens.
This is David Pountney’s 12th production at the Israeli Opera and what a marvel it is. He has brought a light yet tender touch to the farce, which made for a very enjoyable evening. Figaro and Susanna’s love was palpable, as they kept hugging and kissing, and singing while looking into each other’s eyes, and not towards the audience as is usually the case. The young cast were light on their feet, running around the stage and filling it with energy.
The set designed by Leslie Travers also moved around on wheels in a way that emphasize the fluidity of the spaces as the servants’ quarters transformed into the countess’ bedroom and then into the garden where the countess, dressed as the maid, was seduced by her husband the count who was fooled by the costume. It is an interesting mix between classic and modern look, apparent also in the costumes designed by Ula Shevtsov, who put the countess in a striking yellow dress. As conductor Michele Gamba contracted Covid-19, the premiere was rescheduled and he returned in full force. Under his guidance the orchestra The Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion sounded fluent and dynamic.
Le nozze di Figaro has a big cast of singers, including a gardener who runs around with a broken cactus, complaining about things that fall into the garden and damage his plants. There is not enough room to mention each and every one, so I will focus of the ones who grabbed my attention, first and foremost Eitan Drory, who stole every scene he was in as Don Basilio. Not only was he extremely funny as the over the top music teacher, his tenor was divine.
Cherubino, the young passionate lad always played by women, gets to sing two of the most popular arias in the opera – Voi Che Sapete and Non so più cosa son. Tal Ganor, alas, was only adequate in the role, as was American Cody Quattlebaum as Figaro. He looked good with his long mane, but his bass baritone was pleasant yet colorless and not powerful enough.
All the other leads, however, were very good. Baritone Oded Reich gave a commanding performance as the sexual predator, who wants to sleep with every woman on stage except his wife, and uses his position to get what he wants. Alla Vasilevitsky was as good as ever as the forlorn countess who strikes a pact with her maid to fool her husband – what a lovely sisterhood. Vasilevitsky has a gorgeous and powerful soprano and she switched easily between the melodrama and the comedy of her character. Last but not least, Shira Patchornik was charming and endearing as Susanna. Her lovely voice wasn’t very strong, but when she sang Deh, vieni, non tardar, one of the highlights of the whole opera, she gave it all. It was a moment of sublime beauty that reminded everyone in the audience why we still go to the opera rather then watch it on TV.
- Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Director: David Pountney
- Conductor: Michele Gamba
- Sung in Italian with Hebrew and English surtitles
- Set Designer: Leslie Travers
- Cast includes Oded Reich, Shira Patchornik, Alla Vasilevitsky, Eitan Drori, Cody Quattlebaum
- Venue:The Israeli Opera Tel-Aviv-Yafo
- Until: 09 April 2022
- Running time: 3 and a half hours
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