What man wants most is that which he cannot have. With a great deal of humour and attention to detail, Dieter Dorn leads Figaro and the household of his baronial palace through its “day of madness”.

The count desires his manservant’s fiancée. The page, disastrously, wants the count’s wife. Figaro has to undergo all sorts of colourful shennanigans before he is finally able to claim Susanna as his bride. In all the confusion, it’s easy to lose the plot as to who exactly is intriguing against who. So Dieter Dorn’s staging makes sure that all this chaos happens at a rapid pace, so the audience sees one slapstick moment after another. Lots of comic gags and some outstanding acting from the singers keep the public continually laughing. The staging is clearly focused on these comic moments, and is ably supported by Jürgen Rose’s very simple sets which are none the less charged with meaning. A large, brightly lit room with tall doors and white walls puts the main characters, clothed in richly detailed period costumes, in the middle of the action.

Le Nozze di Figaro © Wilfried Hösl
Le Nozze di Figaro
© Wilfried Hösl

The singers and the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra were conducted through this colourful evening by Dan Ettinger. At the beginning, unfortunately, the orchestra were a shade overenthusiastic. At various points in Act I, the singers couldn’t be heard above the powerful brass section. However, by Act III, conductor, orchestra and singers seemed more together.

This was an evening where you could trust the singers to perform as fully fledged actors. It’s well known that Erwin Schrott, who played Figaro, has comic talent aplenty; in this production, he was able to display it to the full. But that shouldn’t be allowed to obscure his vocal talents. Above all, his bass-baritone voice has power and immediacy in his lower register, and he especially shone in the great aria “Non più andrai” with virtuosic lightness of touch. At his side, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller was the picture of a sly and cunning Susanna, with her clear soprano and strength in the high notes. Another star of the evening was Gerald Finley as count Almaviva, absolutely persuasive vocally as well as displaying his acting talents. With excellent facial expression and gestures, he played the role of the count with a perfect balance of comedy and nastiness.

Le nozze di Figaro: Alison Hagley, Monica Groop, Amanda Roocroft © Wilfried Hösl
Le nozze di Figaro: Alison Hagley, Monica Groop, Amanda Roocroft
© Wilfried Hösl

One has to give credit to all the singers this evening for a high quality vocal performance, but Véronique Gens has to be singled out as the countess. Had we not been told before the production that Gens had been troubled by the changeable weather of the last few days, one would not have suspected it in the slightest. She delivered her first aria with total ease and great flexibility, receiving huge applause. The comic trio of Heike Grötzinger (Marcellina), Umberto Chiummo (Bartolo) und Kevin Conners (as a stuttering Don Curzio) worked perfectly with each other to frame the action, and Kate Lindsey displayed solidity in every register as Cherubino.

With Le nozze di Figaro, Mozart composed an opera buffa that unleashed veritable “Figaro fever” in Vienna and Prague. Seeing this production, one can easily understand how audiences of the time were so bewitched. Figaro is an opera that makes joy: here in Munich, the effect was as obvious on the singers as on the audience. In this production of “The marriage of Figaro”, the “day of madness” turned into an “evening of wonder”.

Translated from German by David Karlin

****1