(operanews) Considering Figaro is our favorite opera and Mozart our favorite composer, this was quite a feat. In fact, we were both dazed as we walked out that this could be happening. But really, we couldn’t stay. We know every note of this piece and have listened to it for 50 years–what was so terrible that we had to leave?many many things were wrong.
The conductor, Harry Bicket, who did nicely with a recent Handel, had no idea what to do with this work. It was routine throughout never even rising to the brilliance of the second act finale, one of the greatest sequences in all of opera–maybe all of music. The glorious Met Orchestra fell into standard background music from its usual high level of grandeur. Is this what we have to expect now that he-who-must-not-be-named (James Levine) has left? please no.
The singers were adequate, but never more. I will do them a favor and not mention their names. The countess did not have the exquisite spinto sound we wanted, nor the Susanna the brilliant lyric. Figaro, who really carries the show, really needed a bigger bass baritone and never exhibited the anger this character should have. After all, even though the sexual harassment was happening to his fiance, he was a victim too as was the countess. In the Beaumarchais play, Figaro is the catalyst who brings down the old system and demands his rights as the new man. This Figaro neither sang it nor played it with the fury the role requires.
Similarly, the count, who is the butt, and should be angry about it, portrayed the nobleman as more of a caricature than a real human being who is, after all, a man of unlimited power in his world.
I rarely complain about the sets and costumes, but these hit a new low. I assume the set was supposed to represent Spain with filigree all over the place, but a two-story set of filigree going nowhere made no sense. The costumes from the early 20th century also made no sense. The count is someone who holds and wields total power. He has the right to kill Cherubino and even his wife. Nowhere do we have a sense of this in his Ralph Lauren-like hunting gear or his at-home dressing gown.
As we thought about the wonderful music yet to come in the third and fourth acts, we realized we would be tortured to hear our favorites done to death by boredom. It was an agonizing decision, but on behalf of Mozart, we left.