Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
'A marriage of distinction. An energetic, fresh-voiced cast...Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Taryn Feibig were a vivacious, appealing pairing...vocally strong and agile' (The Australian)
'As the Countess, Rachelle Durkin mixed statuesque hauteur with girlish puppy love...refined phrasing and beautifully poised tonal control' (The Sydney Morning Herald) This perky, impressive Figaro from the Australian Opera has much to recommend it. It has an interesting, skewed period look: Designer Dale Ferguson's heavy draperies, formal leggings for the gents, and cleavage-sprouting dresses for the women are suitably 18th
century, while there's a 1950s vacuum cleaner, an iron with an electrical wire attached to it, and a faux-leather armchair to throw off expectations.
Neil Armfield, the director, is not afraid of broad humor, but he also underlines the class distinctions and anger that cannot be denied. His Figaro is no buffoon, but a sharp guy who sings the second verse of "Non piu andrai" directly to the Count, who sits cowering in the armchair while the six-and-a-half-foot tall Figaro hovers over him menacingly. The characters are all well-drawn, with a couple of sexy moments between Count and Countess in the second act that remind us of earlier, happier days.
Patrick Summers' excellent leadership shines in this note-complete Figaro. While he never rushes, everything keeps moving; he indulges in some wonderful and surprising rubato at times ("Dove sono"), allows (or encourages) his singers to embellish vocal lines in their arias (even Marzellina's and Basilio's), and is sprightly in the recits, where a fortepiano is used. The entire fourth act has a flow that is second to none--it seems as natural as real life--and he accents interestingly as well, with the tempo changes absolutely right.
Being a live performance, it takes our Figaro and Susanna, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Taryn Fiebig, a few moments to warm up. She in particular sounds a bit gritty for Susanna but reaches her stride quickly. Indeed, her sense of fun and timing are superb; her "Deh vieni...", sung with flair, warmth, and decoration, is glorious and she manages to giggle girlishly while singing. Her Italian enunciation, however, is not very good.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes sings big, if you know what I mean--this Figaro is easily outraged--and his height allows him to take over whenever he's on stage. The voice has a fine, interesting grain in it, and overall his portrayal is terrific. The two play off one another as naturally as any couple in love and in a sticky situation. I wish I found something special in Sian Pendry's Cherubino, but it's merely good and I can think of a half-dozen better, and she most certainly cannot pass for a boy.
As for the "upstairs" couple, Peter Coleman-Wright's Count has an aristocratic lightness to it, and he sings right on the beat and right on the notes, spitting out the text as if he owns the place, which he does. His transformation from arrogant bully to loving husband in search of absolution is wonderfully managed. Rachelle Durkin's Countess is lovely and touching; the strong vibrato in her voice conveys great feeling. Once you get past her blond fright wig--almost exactly the same as Bartolo's(!)--you can appreciate her introspective, melancholy "Porgi amor".
Jacqueline Dark's Marzellina is plummy and formidable, her vicious interplay with Susanna very funny indeed. And her aria suits her well. Kanen Breen's Basilio is overdone, with weird falsetto singing in his aria, but his amazingly campy portrayal certainly is picturesque. Warwick Fyfe, more baritone than bass, sings Bartolo's music well but exaggerates in his first-act aria to make up for true vocal strength.
This may not be ground-breaking, but it's excellent. First choice probably is the Royal Opera's on BBC/Opus Arte under Pappano, with a nod going to the old film by Ponnelle, which despite being lip-synched still has the unmatchable Hermann Prey, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Mirella Freni, and Kiri Te Kanawa.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Le nozze di Figaro, K 492 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sian Pendry (Mezzo Soprano),
Taryn Fiebig (Soprano),
Teddy Tadu-rhodes (Tenor),
Peter Coleman-Wright (Bass),
Rachelle Durkin (Soprano)
Opera Australia Orchestra,
Opera Australia Chorus
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria
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