S&H Festivalreview

Montreux Festival: Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro, Montreux Auditorium, September 7, 2001 (FC) )

This is certainly not your parent's Figaro but is rather a product of new thinking about baroque and classical performance practices. The young people who make up this cast are relatively recent graduates of music schools who's training emphasise historically informed performances of the baroque and classical era masterworks. The soprano singing this "Dove sono," you can be sure, has not been singing "Vissi d'arte" in some other hall the previous week.

Since this movement became firmly rooted, some 20 or more years ago, authentic instrument orchestras and performing groups, like "Les Arts Florissant" under William Christie and John Elliot Gardiner's orchestras, have gained wide acceptance and audiences, particularly in Europe. The director of the Montreux Voice and Music Festival, Christian Chorier, has shown his affinity with this by inviting many of the leading proponents of authentic baroque performance practice for this festival. While Mozart is obviously not baroque, its presentation at this festival is coloured by the recent advancements in historical interpretation of early music. As an example, the singers sing with a more pronounced clarity and balance and the recitatives and ensemble passages receive more attention.

French soprano Véronique Gens, who sings the Countess in this concert version, is an example of her generation's new path. Coming from a background rooted in the latest baroque performance practice, only in the last few years has she been singing Mozart. However, in this short time, she has become one of the most celebrated interpreters of Mozart's heroines. Playing Countess Almaviva with grace and dignity, the elegant, well-crafted vocal line and purity of voice made her interpretation one that will remain in memory.

René Jacobs, here conducting the excellent Concerto Köln and the RIAS Kammerchor, is also an early music specialist who has achieved much notice for his ability to sniff out neglected Baroque lyric works and get them on stage and on CD. His conducting of this original instrument orchestra had all the necessary freshness and details to give new life to this much-performed opera. Pietro Spagnoli sings a warm and focused Count and the Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi is a spry and clear voiced Susanna. Also contributing to the uniformly fine casting is baritone Lorenzo Regazzo as Figaro and mezzo-soprano Monica Bacelli as an engaging Cherubino with the delightful tenor Peter Hoare as Don Basilio and a strong Bartolo of Antonio Abete.
Photo Rene Jacobs courtesy of the Montreux Voice and Music Festival.

These same forces will be doing six performances of this same opera, fully staged, in Paris' Théàtre des Champs-Elysées next month. With all of the abundant youth, talent and wit featured in this production, it should be a well-received run.

Frank Cadenhead

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