Andreas Homoki’s all-purpose staging of… in the Komische Oper, this was Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, but here in the Tokyo New National Theatre it is supposed to be Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Anyway, I’ll walk you through the checklist – the color palette is limited to white/black/gray, there is only one set that comes apart at some point, there is a great deal of stylization/anachronism going on and singers are kept very busy throughout. To be honest, the production is 10 years old and I cannot say how many original ideas by Homoki are still in use. In any case, Spielleiter Yasuhiro Miura has done his job: in this sugar-rush approach – throngs of extras involved – everybody seems to be in the right place at the right time with the right motivation. It is all most uninterestingly efficient – and the animation from the cast is not of much help here.
“Animation” is the keyword to describe Ulf Schirmer’s conducting too, keen on fast tempi, crispy accents and regularity of pace. The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra was seriously tested in what regards clarity by the unrelenting beat, but never gave up trying. This has given the performance some spirit – and even if dazzling accuracy would have been welcome, I would choose spirit over mechanical correctness anytime… What the conductor seemed to be rather careless about was his singers. At some times, I wondered if there had been any full rehearsal, for ensembles were invariably poorly balanced and synched. Sometimes a singer would sound unhappy about the tempo chosen for his aria; in other moments, he or she sounded as if he or she would have benefited of some guidance in style by the conductor. If this were a cast of exceptional abilities, maybe the magic would have operated by itself.
Mandy Fredrich has many advantages for the role of the Countess Almaviva: her voice is clear and uncomplicated and, having dealt with the role of the Queen of the Night as early as in last year’s Salzburg Festival, does not seem to find anything in this part really high (actually, she sing her own high notes better than almost every Countess I have ever seen live). She can also produce very clean Mozartian lines and has crystalline diction. But – and again this is a big “but” – the voice has a cold, uncongenial tonal quality and she too often sounds prosaic in moments in which she should sound simply scrumptious (the entire Porgi, amor, for instance). Her Susanna, Kanae Kushima, on the other hand, is very congenial – her voice has a smile and she knows what kind of woman Susanna is. However, faulty intonation and technique (she desperately needs a plausible solution for her low register) make it very hard to enjoy her performance. Deh vieni, non tardar was below amateurish. If a soprano has so little affection for this lovely piece of music, she should not be singing this role. Ukranian mezzo-soprano Lena Belkina (Cherubino) too made very little of her arias – she and Mozart are not really best friends. Levente Molnár’s baritone has an attractive Thomas Allen-like color and – some “acting with the voice” apart – is quite stylish. He can be clumsy in some key moments, but something must have gone seriously wrong during the Count Almaviva’s big aria. The stretta was all over the place. As Figaro, Marco Vinco produced the right endearingly goofy impression – native Italian being a great advantage. The voice unfortunately has a muffled, not very youthful quality.