Tag Archives: San Carlo Naples

Figaro in Naples

4 Oct

If you haven’t been to the San Carlo in Naples, it’s worth seeing.  It’s easily one of the most gorgeous auditoriums in Europe: golds and pinks, six tiers of balconies, a glorious painted ceiling and one of he most over the top Royal boxes you’ll come across.  A short holiday there coincided with a performance of Le nozze di Figaro on 30 September and the opportunity was too good to miss.

Sadly, it didn’t really live up to the beauty of the auditorium.  The overture was a pretty good guide to the evening – correct, slightly plodding and rather flat – though that may be what strikes me as a dull acoustic.  Ralf Weikert’s conducting was like that for the entire piece.  The orchestra played efficiently for him but this was one of the dullest, least loving musical performances of this opera I’ve heard for a long time.

The production is by Chiara Muti and isn’t great either.  It’s set in a huge structure of steps and galleries so that people can watch each other and you can see them approaching.  It struck me that it would be a great set for Butterfly, Rosenkaverlier, Chenier or, indeed, Adriana Lecouvreur, which is the next one in the San Carlo’s season.  Here it detracted more than it added.  It didn’t help that a door handle refused to work at one point in Act II leaving you wondering whether people would actually be able to get through it in time – and Cherubino had to go up steps to get to the dressing room, only to go down them again once in.  It allowed for some interesting ideas – Cherubino watching the Countess sing Dove sono, and a hint at the theatricality of the piece.  But what I missed was the characterisation and natural acting.  Everything seemed generalised and overdone.

I felt the cast had the potential to be better than it was.  The absolute star was Rosa Feola as Susanna.  Fresh from Glyndebourne, this was as beautifully and alertly sung and thoughtfully, truthfully acted.  She’s one of the very best Susannas that I’ve seen.  Cinzia Forte was ill and the understudy Countess was nervous and, I’m sure, is better than she sounded.  Simone Alberghini sounded a bit light for the house as the Count but I enjoyed his alert acting and confident way with the words.  Alessandro Luongo, the Figaro was light, amiable but didn’t dominate as he should.

Marina Comparato’s Cherubino was far, far too feminine and I’m not sure that she was singing at her best.  The Marcelina was doing fine as a blowsy, rather vulgar woman until it came to her aria, which, in an amazing act of sadism we had to put up with.  I’m afraid she wasn’t up to its demands.  We also had Basilio’s and I’ve never really seen the point of that.  I really enjoyed Bruno Lazzaretti’s performance of the latter role – alert, singing the text as clearly and naturally as I’ve heard and he didn’t need the aria to help him.  What worried me most of all was how badly the cast blended.  I never imagined that the sextet in Act III could sound ugly but here were four voices simply not working together.

I’ve heard that the Italians don’t really get Mozart.  This felt like evidence of it.  Certainly the audience felt bored rigid and the pleasure that I’d anticipated in hearing an almost completely native Italian cast singing to an audience in its native language was lost.  There was barely a chuckle throughout the evening and, in this opera, that is a major achievement.

Do go to the see the San Carlo, but maybe take care about what you see.

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