Back at the Four Seasons Centre last night for another look at the current Claus Guth production of The Marriage of Figaro. It was a somewhat different experience than opening night. The timing and physical comedy seems to have crisped up and the audience seemed more relaxed. There was a lot of laughter. A lot. I could see why too, although I have never thought of this as a “funny” production. Indeed the 2006 Salzburg original earned its reputation as “the darkest Figaro ever”. Interval conversation suggested that the production has been progressively “lightened up” in its various Salzburg revivals and maybe this was just the next step in that progression. There seemed to be fewer dead birds too. One effect of the shift was to bring the character of Figaro more to the fore. I thought Joseph Wagner was a bit anonymous on opening night but he impressed me last night.
I wondered, like many people, how this production would go down given the very mixed reception of the Tcherniakov Don Giovanni. Last night’s packed house lapped it up. Maybe, as my partner suggested, it’s because just when this production seems to be veering off into unfamiliar territory it makes one laugh. And it’s hard to get pissed off when one is laughing.
I’m know really curious to see what the Ensemble Studio cast will do with this on Monday night. With even more more youthful energy and enthusiasm, it could get really interesting. I also need to revisit the 2006 recording and see how much of my changed impression is really the result of actual changes to the production.
In any event, if you haven’t caught this production yet I really do recommend it. Besides Monday, there are main cast shows tomorrow (matinée), Tuesday and Thursday with a final 4.30pm performance on Saturday, though that one is all but sold out.
ETA: I did take a look at the video recording though I didn’t watch it in full. I noticed the following significant differences which, collectively, I think explain the different emotional impact.
- Ildebrando d’Arcangelo is a very different Figaro from Joseph Wagner. He’s more abrasive, even sadistic.
- There are significant differences musically. Harnoncourt’s tempi are more variable and idiosyncratic. This changes the emphasis, especially in the recits. Also Salzburg uses harpsichord continuo rather than piano.
- But the biggest difference is the impact of the filming. Constant facial close-ups create a more intense and febrile atmosphere. This is especially true with Skovhuis and d’Arcangelo who scowl a lot. Also, some of the visual gags just aren’t nearly as funny when one can’t see them properly. Cherubino’s antics under the sheet in the scene where the count finds him with Susanna is a good example. In the house, the scuttling about drew lots of laughs. On the DVD it’s barely noticeable.
Photo credits: Michael Cooper (1st), Chris Hutcheson (2nd and 3rd)