The week in classic: The Marriage of Figaro; Mahler Symphony No 8 review – phenomenal | Opera
AAs an antidote to the return of the clocks and dark days, Mozart is always a good choice, especially in this case: the warmth of Seville, conveyed by the sparkling light of an Islamic-Christian palace, rich in gold and amber , makes Glyndebourne’s staging of Figaro’s wedding a fabulous visual feast (thanks to the creations of Christopher Oram and the lighting of Paule Constable). Relaunched this summer, now with a mostly new cast, Michael Grandage’s 2012 production is one of the two main productions this fall. Visit to Glyndebourne (the other is Bohemian), on the road by the end of November.
Aside from reaching a wider audience, one of the main strengths of the tour is its desire to nurture young talent. The driver of Figaro, Stephanie Childress, is 23 years old. As a violinist, she garnered attention in BBC Young Musician in 2016 and 2019. Now her stage career has taken center stage. His focus and composure resulted in a performance of supple, detailed and assured vitality. With the constant stop-start dialogue, which needs to be as fluid and realistic as everyday conversation, timing is everything. The use of historically informed performance elements – natural trumpets, expertly embellished continuo playing in the fortepiano and cello – resulted in an ideal balance between stage and pit. He rode freely and with spirit.
Dressed in hippy-disco rockets, velvet, waistcoats, flowery kaftans, Count Almaviva’s household could have come out of an Iris Murdoch novel: a group of well-to-do people whose sole occupation is to fall in love with inappropriately, regardless of the moral consequences. The update, especially in this modified staging – no rotating set, no arrival by car in the opening (the curtain remains down) – was skilfully revived by Ian Rutherford and his team. If part of the game was borderline ham, the game chorus jumps and dances a little, whatever. The singing was uniformly excellent, from Henry Waddington’s seasoned and smug Bartolo to Jerwood Young performer Charlotte Bowden in the small but critical role of Barbarina.
Nardus Williams, a soprano of growing reputation and boundless charm, has returned as Countess, with the dignity, grace and fire required. Count by George Humphreys, swaying and sordid; Alexander Miminoshvili’s cunning and clever Figaro; Madeleine Shaw’s imperious Marcellina; Ida Ränzlöv’s lanky Cherubino created a compelling ensemble. Mozart’s divine comedy stands or falls through its Suzanne. Soraya Mafi, a fast rising star, is perfection, clear diction, funny and sharp manners, voice at ease in all the demands of the role. catch this Figaro whether you can.
Known since its creation under the nickname Symphony of a Thousand, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (1906) exhausts the lexicon of the great. Any attempt to follow the work’s sprawling two-movement form argument is bewildered by the music’s epic 90-minute sweep. Eight soloists, three adult choirs, two children’s choirs and an oversized Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – several hundred musicians in total, a rather impressive number without trying to reach the mythical thousand – performed in front of a full house. Royal Albert Hall last weekend, under the direction of Vasily Petrenko.
This symphony crosses all life and ends, with the final scene of Goethe Faust, in Paradise. From the gargantuan roar of the organ at the start, voices launching into “Veni creator spiritus”, to the phenomenal final climax, this is music of powerful physics. Each member of each choir has been drilled to the highest standards: the Philharmonia Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, City of London Choir, Tiffin Boys’ Choir and School Cantorum of Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, the latter two singing their memory contributions. Above the many levels of singers, an “offstage” brass ensemble took the highest position, for sonic and visual effect.
The Albert Hall felt like its only purpose was to house this grandest, if most unequal enterprise. Petrenko kept the momentum going, with fast speeds and clean textures. A particularly lyrical vocal writing is entrusted to the mezzo-soprano, interpreted in a convincing way by Jennifer Johnston. The three sopranos, Sarah Wegener, Jacquelyn Wagner and Regula Mühlemann, contralto Claudia Huckle, tenor Vincent Wolfsteiner, baritone Benedict Nelson and bass James Platt complete the admirable solo line-up. The event was delayed for two years due to the pandemic. Since, petrenkoThe own transition from conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic to musical director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has been accomplished. For anyone mourning the loss of large-scale upsetting events over the past two years, this was redemption.
Star ratings (out of five)
Figaro’s wedding ★★★★★
Mahler “Symphony of a Thousand” ★★★★