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This production is clearly among the best, if not the best Figaro on DVD.
David McVicar highlights the dark undercurrent of the work in a production sufficiently traditional as not to offend anyone. The rococo charm is downplayed, however the production is far from being uncharming. The production is updated to the 1830s France, exactly why I do not know, but it is very beautiful and not unlike McVicar´s recent Manon from Barcelona.
David McVicar highlights the class distinctions of the characters and a strong emphasis is placed on sexuality and the Count's violent nature. Here, the countess appears an abused wife. The happy end for the Countess´ marriage surely is only temporary.
Equal emphasis is placed on acting, appearance and singing and the stage direction is simply superb. As is evident from the documentary accompanying McVicar´s Manon DVD, he is very much a hands-on director and meticulously directs the movements of the singers until the tiniest detail. Which pays off in spades.
What most of all makes this production memorable is the chemistry and tension. However, though the tension is highlighted, the humour is captured as well (unlike Guth´s Salzburg Figaro, where any attempt of comedy is disposed with).
David McVicar succeeds in conveying the feeling some new dimensions are discovered with this Figaro, which is no small accomplishment.
Erwin Schrott is over-all a great Figaro, but vocally he is a rather unorthodox one. First of all there is much sprech-gesang as he tends to speak his recitatives. His singing-style is rather unconventional and rough as well and occasionally he strays far away from the pitch. However, as an actor he is superb. May I add that he keeps his shirt on as well. His style takes a while getting used to, but it ends up working very well for him.
Miah Persson´s Susanna is more exquisite and delicate than most and she genuinely looks the part as a perfect match for Erwin Schrott´s Figaro.
This is the second Dorothea Röschmann Countess on DVD and she is stylish as always. Gerald Finley is a very unsympathetic count, excellent both as an actor and singer. I was less impressed by Rinat Shaham´s Cherubino as others.
Antonio Pappano was vigorous as well as precise in the pit, though not particularly inventive.
Some have complained about the uneven sound quality of this DVD. While I agree that the balance between singers and orchestra/harpsichord is occasionally uneven it did not bother me significantly.
Erwin Schrott with Aprite un po degli occhi:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Erwin Schrott: 4-5
Miah Persson: 4-5
Dorothea Röschmann: 4-5
Gerald Finley: 4
Rinat Shaham: 3-4
David McVicar´s production: 5
Antonio Pappano: 4
Overall impression: 5