Top critical review
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Marvellous music and performances, but an ugly and strange production!
on 16 March 2010
I bought this DVD as I thought it was about time I branched out into enjoying some of Mozart's other operas after a life-long love of his marvellous work 'Don Giovanni'. I picked this particular production purely based on the fact that I am a fan of baritone Peter Mattei (who plays Count Almaviva).
Upon first watching of this DVD, it became evident that the standard of acting and singing was nothing short of brilliant. The interactions between the characters was wonderful, humourous and touching. Particularly notable was the lady who played Cherubino, who makes a very convincing teenage boy and sang the role wonderfully. Peter Mattei also shone as the Count, and played this character with great depth. His portrayal of the count as a ridiculous and laughable skirt-chaser in full 'mid life crisis' mode added great humour to the work, but he was also able to show convincing depth in the more touching and serious moments.
Despite the wonderful music, singing, and acting, this production is quite the ugliest thing imaginable in terms of scenery and costumes etc. The constumes look vaguely 'modern' but in an awfully shabby and dated 'just bought from the nearest charity shop' kind of way. In terms of scenery, I dont know where to start. All the action appears to take place in or around some sort of wedding registry office and bridal gown fitting room, regardless of where the scene is supposed to be set at the time. I suppose the director would argue this has some sort of 'symbolic' meaning, but it does make the story rather confusing, unbelievable, and ridiculous. I am in favour of modern stage settings, but this seems to be trying to be making an 'artisic' statment to the detriment of the plot and feel of the opera.
Other strange elements to this already confused production, would be the musical addition of the glass harmonica and beer bottles which are used to toot a tune into at various intervals. I'm no expert, but I doubt that was in the original manuscript. Quite the strangest thing of all is the few glimpses we are given above the stage scenery, of what appears to be some stuffed farmyard animals artisically placed there for reasons that are unknown or unexplained and completely baffling. One suspects that given the opportunity to ask the director, you would be given some long-winded explanation of the symbolic meaning behind each of his odd decisions. Without this luxury though, I couldnt help but find it all ridiculous and completely unrelated to the actual meaning and spirit of the opera.
This production is one for the very open-minded. Traditionalists will tear their hair out at the sight of it. However, if you are able or willing to see past the awful scenery etc, the quality of the performances and orchestra make this still a thoroughly enjoyable work.