Le nozze di Figaro - Royal Opera House, 16 September 2013
Now this is more like it. After the disappointing start to the ROH season with Turandot comes the best revival yet of David McVicar's 2006 production. The comedy sparkles, the social satire bites, and three and a half hours pass in no time.
With his father-in-law, Thomas Hampson, sitting in the audience, Luca Pisaroni made a cheeky Wigmore Hall debut. "If in the end I have to take a wife, I know very well why I do it. I do it to pay my debts. I take her for the money," goes Schubert's Il modo di prender moglie. But the humour - well-received - loosened up audience and performers alike for an otherwise more weighty programme, pulled off with an immaculate blend of technique and taste. A shame the Hall was only half full, but it seems only the real aficionados turn out for these Sunday afternoon recitals.
The Bellini-ish L’incanto degli occhi and Il traditor deluso, a sort of cornetto-flavoured Erlkönig, completed Schubert's Italian set. With his agile bass-baritone and stage background allied to fine diction, Pisaroni could strike the right balance between their operatic influences and Schubert's own inimitable voice.
Rossini's Péchés de vieillesse cover the same sort of salon-opera territory in a rather different style, but again the question of balance is key. With La promessa, L'esule and L'orgia Pisaroni was attentive to text but preserved enough line to allow the music to flow.
A reason Liszt's songs aren't heard too often is the range of technical challenges they present to both singer and pianist. Yet there was such ease in the way Pisaroni and the unshowy Wolfram Rieger surmounted the difficulties you'd never guess they even existed. Pisaroni's German proved as good as his native Italian. He floated the higher passages beautifully, and only the longest lines defeated his reserves of wind. The violent, declamatory Vergiftet sind meine Lieder and the dramatic Vätergruft were highlights that proved his talents stretch way beyond the Mozart operas for which he's best known.