This Paris production is not one of my favourite versions of one of the finest operas ever(to me), but I still recommend it. If there was any real problem I had, it was the uneven conducting of Georg Solti. Now Solti I do like, he is very enigmatic and certainly very intelligent too. For me though, although Le Nozze Di Figaro's music has so much energy and character Solti's tempos can be too slow for my tastes. This is especially true in Non Piu Andrai(which is also a little too heavy with the violins) and Porgi D'Amor.
However, it looks gorgeous, especially in the costuming of Susanna and the Countess. The sets are traditional and just as sumptuous as the costumes, not the gaudy sets of their otherwise impressive 1979 Nabucco and 1981 La Tosca. The video quality is also very good, likewise with the sound mostly apart from the odd muffled moment. The orchestra are also great, playing beautifully and stylishly, providing enough character in the recitatives and proving to be sensitive accompanists.
The performances are also worth crediting. Apart from what looks like a sock on his head, which to me looked silly, a very youthful-looking Jose Van Dam with his rounded beautiful bass-baritone singing is an appealing Figaro. The late Lucia Popp makes for a truly charming Susanna, looking and sounding radiant and every bit as good as Freni and Hagley. The letter duet between her and Jonowitz is exquisite, having the necessary vocally soaring quality. Kurt Moll early on in his career is an amusing and carefully enunciated Bartolo, though he went on to do better performances later on(Sarastro, Baron Ochs, Gurnemanz to name a few).
Gundula Janowitz is a silvery-voiced and moving Countess, deserving praise for such sustained phrasing even with her sometimes ludicrously slow speeds. Gabriel Bacquier is characterful and wonderfully arrogant as the Count, with a flexible technique and a lovely and always interesting to listen to timbre. Federica Von Stade is one of my favourite Cherubinos of all time, she is charming, appealingly boyish and always doing something physical(she manages to almost steal the show from under Van Dam during Non Piu Andrai even without singing) with wonderful facial expressions, eye contact to make you go weak at the knees and a voice to die for.
Jane Berbie and Michel Senechal as Marcellina and Basilio also impress, the sarcasm duet is biting and while lacking Heinz Zednik's(for example that is) hilarious gestures and Count Chokula appearance Basilio convinces with the comedic aspect of Basilio. Danielle Perrier's Barbarina charms and Jules Bastin as Antonio amuses in Act 2. Overall, good, I'd say very good even, elevated by the cast, production values and by the fact that the opera is a masterpiece. As much as I like Solti on the other hand, I found his conducting while impressive rather bland and dare I say plodding at times. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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