Le nozze di Figaro - Royal Opera House, 14 February 2012
Oops. David McVicar's finest production isn't as bulletproof as it once seemed. This time round, coarse revival direction and subpar casting have diminished its subtlety and psychological insight.
Things may have been different if the originally-scheduled Count and Countess, Simon Keenlyside and Kate Royal, had turned up. But they were replaced by youngish Americans Lucas Meachem and Rachel Willis-Sørensen. Both are clearly well-schooled and sing loudly and accurately enough. Neither was disastrous. But Meacham's oafish, defensive persona was more servile than aristocratic, and I doubt if there was a damp eye in the house when Willis-Sørensen delivered her uninvolving Dove Sono. At the risk of sounding like Britain's grumpiest opera critic - were there really no British singers they could have called on instead?
At least Ildebrando D'Arcangelo made a decent Figaro. In place of the menacing physicality and exquisite comic timing of his predecessor in the role, Erwin Schrott, he brought elegant singing and suave, understated assurance. Aleksandra Kurzak's Susanna was appealing too, her sweet tone and liquid phrasing more than compensating for her slightly irritating textbook pertness. Anna Bonitatibus wasn't on her best vocal form as Cherubino, but the rest of the cast were unusually strong, with old hands like Bonaventura Bottone, Ann Murray and Jeremy White joined by the promising Susana Gaspar as Barbarina.
Sir Tony played harpsichord continuo as well as conducting and kept things lively in the pit, though I hope the seagull squall of the natural horns is an experiment he won't bother repeating.
Production photos (above) - Bill Cooper for Royal Opera House
Thanks to Kyoko for the curtain call video below: