Although this is my second experience with the production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro from Prague’s National Theatre, you won’t find here in this blog any description of the first time, when I saw it in the Estates Theatre in 2011, because I found it nothing but a tourist trap for those who want to see the theatre where Mozart premièred Don Giovanni. Why then have I decided to give it a second try? First, on their Japanese tour, they would probably show their A-team; second, I was curious about their guest prima donna; but ultimately because January 14th was a holiday with a discouraging weather forecast.
It must be said that the sets seem to have been dusted prior to the shipping to Japan – I had the impression some pieces of furniture are new (maybe borrowed in Japan?), but I might be wrong. Maybe the fact that the whole scenery wasn’t wobbly as back in Prague is the answer for the positive impression, who knows? This cast too is stronger in the acting department (although there is not really much direction to speak of). In Prague, there was an interesting conductor (Tomas Netopil) that offered a strong performance in what regards the contribution of the orchestra. Here we had a competent Jan Chalupecky, whose kapellmeisterlich reliability did not involve a rich, clear or polished orchestral sound. Maybe he had to make do with the B-team this evening. As it was, the conducting duties involved not making it difficult for the singers while keeping the principles of Mozartian style in view – within these goals, the performance was quite successful, if you don’t expect excellency.
When it comes to the cast, it is hard to believe that a country with such tradition of important singers (Emmy Destinn, Karel Burian, Maria Jeritza, Jarmila Novotná, Beno Blachut, Milada Subrtová and, to give some “new names”, Magdalena Kozená and Martina Janková) cannot produce – from the roster of its own National Theatre – a more impressive Mozartian cast than this (let’s not speak of that from 2011…). I have written that the core of any performance of Le Nozze di Figaro is the soprano in the role of Susanna. Back in Prague, we had a very decent one (really superior to her colleagues), but this evening we had even better: the young Jana Sibera is a very promising singer whose sweetly shimmering, quicksilvery soprano is entirely at home in Mozart. Her soaring Deh vieni, non tardar redeemed this afternoon. She is also a very good actress who never forget that Susanna is just a servant in the house – a pretty one with almost ingenuous playfulness, who cannot hide her excitement for taking part in her masters’ whimsical marital games. Michaela Kapustová’s Cherubino had her moments, but she is unfortunately too often careless for comfort. The very young singer taking the role of the Count still has an undeveloped voice – an interesting one, still green I am afraid – but the Figaro (the one survivor from the 2011 cast) who had yet to master his high register and to follow the conductor has become helplessly nasal-toned and still lags behind or rushes ahead the beat. And there is Isabel Rey’s Countess. Singers often say that one should always have a Mozartian role now and then to see what has gone wrong and to fix it. This Spanish soprano used to be a very commendable Mozart singer – as one can see in Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s DVDs of Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni from Zürich- but she seems to have gone really astray. In her defense, one could say that she rises up to her high register more easily than some famous Countesses (she has sung her own high notes instead of delegating them to Susanna, for strenuous results though), but other than this, there was very little to beguile the ears this afternoon. I do hope that this Mozartian excursion help her to find her way back.