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Noticias interessantes do New York Times - Opera
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Ildebrando D’Arcangelo in the title role, and Anna Netrebko as Susanna, in “Le Nozze di Figaro,” conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
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‘Figaro,’ With Nikolaus Harnoncourt Conducting, at the Salzburg Festival
By ANTHONY TOMMASINI
Published: August 8, 2006
SALZBURG, Austria, Aug. 7 — Looking ahead to the new production of Mozart’s “Nozze di Figaro” at the Salzburg Festival, which boasts a starry cast onstage and the Vienna Philharmonic in the pit, I never imagined that I would wind up focusing on tempos.
True, in interviews before the production, the eminent conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt alerted everyone that his tempos were likely to be controversial. In Sunday evening’s performance at the impressive new Haus für Mozart, which has replaced the Small Festival Hall, Mr. Harnoncourt’s tempos were indeed different from those usually encountered in this work.
In general they were slower, sometimes much slower, particularly in sections of the score that are usually taken fast, starting with the spirited overture, which was here articulate and glowing but curiously laid-back. The slower tempos were especially interesting coming from a pioneer in the early-music movement, whose practitioners have tended to advocate fleet and buoyant tempos.
Still, as so often, Mr. Harnoncourt’s work defied generalization. The tempo of one aria would be noticeably restrained, as in Figaro’s “Se vuol ballare,” sung by the robust-voiced bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, a volatile and charismatic Figaro. But then another aria would be quicker than usual, like Susanna’s blissful anticipation of romance on her wedding night, “Deh, vieni, non tardar,” sung here with lustrous tone and lyrical grace by the dazzling soprano Anna Netrebko, whose portrayal brings out the character’s earthy and resourceful qualities.
Mr. Harnoncourt’s intention, as he has said in interviews, is to project the organic shape of the score by bringing tempos into balance. What this meant in practice was an avoidance of extremes. His approach was always fascinating and sometimes revelatory. But there were exasperating moments when it seemed that he was making an intellectual point with his tempo choices and phrasings. Sometimes the singers appeared to relish having more space to breathe, more leeway to savor their words; at other times they seemed to want the music to carry them along a little faster.
But the tempo choices were less disconcerting than Mr. Harnoncourt’s penchant for stopping the pace cold to create a dramatic effect, as when Figaro evokes the “ding ding” and “dong dong” of the bells that call him and Susanna to duty as valet and maid to the Count and Countess. Interpretive ideas like this one just came across as didactic.
The languid impact of some of the tempos was probably exaggerated by Claus Guth’s modern-dress production, so dark, moody and ominous. With sets and costumes by Christian Schmidt, the story is played out on roomy landings adjacent to an enormous staircase in the Count’s neglected palace, which could use a fresh coat of white paint. If “Figaro” is a comedy of romantic desire, confusion and tyranny, Mr. Guth leaves out most of the comedy.
Sometimes the darkness of the staging turns openly mean. In most productions, during the jaunty aria “Non più andrai,” a chortling Figaro tells Cherubino about the glories that await him in the military.
Here things become ugly. The jealous Figaro, who has worked himself into a state, turns angrily on Cherubino, played by the luminous and petite soprano Christine Schäfer, who fully conveys a gaminlike, hormonal adolescent. Figaro takes out his barber’s scissors and cuts locks from Cherubino’s hair. Then he slices a gash in Cherubino’s pale white arm and rubs the blood on the boy’s face. His partner in brutalizing Cherubino is the Count, here the baritone Bo Skovhus, who sang the role with husky vocal command and conveyed the Count’s erotic restlessness even in the fidgety way he moved.
Yet the members of the excellent cast gave themselves over to the director, which took trust and sometimes shamelessness. In Act II, when Susanna and the Countess start dressing Cherubino in girl’s clothing, the game gets out of hand: the women fondle Cherubino like some boy toy, and all three wind up rollicking on the floor atop a fur coat.
As always, the festival has been getting its money’s worth from the glorious Vienna Philharmonic, which plays an opera almost every night, and on Sunday also performed a Mozart program at the Large Festival Hall. Among other works, Roger Norrington conducted lively accounts of two concert arias (featuring the appealing, dusky-toned Latvian soprano Elina Garanca) and the exuberant “Prague” Symphony. Future concerts will juxtapose works of Mozart with contemporary scores.
The Salzburg Festival runs through Aug. 31; www.salzburgfestival.at.
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