Redundant to note, this Christoph Marthaler production, as everything he does, was controversial when it opened in Paris 2006. For the usual reasons, which consist of Marthalers penchant for providing desolate everyday settings for his stagings. A concept put to maximal benefit in his superb Salzburg Katia Kabanova, which however turned out a virtual walk in the desert in his universally negatively received Bayreuth Tristan.
Between these two extremes, this Paris Figaro covers the middle ground: A single set taking place in front of a marriage bureau. "Figaro is really about marriage", as Marthaler states in the accompanying documentary. As always with Marthaler, the characters and sets seem taken out of the desolate everyday life of 1960-70s Eastern Europe: Grey and hopeless. Does it work? In this context, not really, I´d say. To little of the characters and their motivations are exposed and the entire affair becomes to monodimensional.
Though, Marthaler has the good fortune of excellent singer-actors over the entire line. Best of all are Christine Schäfer and Peter Mattei. Christine Schäfers superbly sung Cherubino looks astonishingly like a teenage boy and Peter Mattei delivers one of the finest Counts on DVD, though perhaps he is too nice and fails (unless on purpose) to convey the ambiguity of the character. In comparison, though finely attuned to Marthalers concept, there is something distinctly everyday-like about both Christiane Oelze (in fine voice as the Countess) and Heidi Grant Murphy (a bit shrill as Susanna). In the middle, Lorenzo Regazzo´s Figaro was both well-acted and well sung.
Sylvain Cambrelings way with Mozart is too passive for my taste, though he was never less than competent.
Christine Schäfer "Non so piu":
Peter Mattei "Hai gia vinta la causa":
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Christiane Oelze: 4
Peter Mattei: 5
Heidi Grant Murphy: 3
Lorenzo Regazzo: 4
Christine Schäfer: 5
Marthalers staging: 3
Sylvain Cambreling: 4
Overall impression: 4