Let me be clear from the outset: I’m not really an “opera guy.” I have an appreciation for classical music and the operatic art form, sure, but I couldn’t tell you anything particularly relevant or compelling about various singers or various strands of opera. That said, I’m never one to shy away from trying something new.
In this case, the “something new” is a release of the January 28, 1961 performance of Le Nozze di Figaro. The Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart opera is actually a comedy. The libretto (text) is by Lorenzo Da Ponte, a Venetian librettist and poet. Le Nozze di Figaro is based on a play by French fugitive, spy, arms dealer, watchmaker, diplomat, musician, and revolutionary Pierre Beaumarchais. With such a crowded career, it is indeed something that Figaro is what Beaumarchais is known for.
This three-disc set of Le Nozze di Figaro comes as part of Sony’s Classical division. The program runs for about 155 minutes or so and it is, of course, in Italian.
Even with the language barrier, if you will, the comedy and excitement of this work is palpable. With the role of Figaro delivered by Cesare Siepi, the legendary bass singer, the recording is in good hands from the outset. His tone rings with drama and poise and he is especially striking in the upper registry.
In the role of Susanna is Roberta Peters. Her soprano is beautiful and pure, but she doesn’t have the glass-shattering shrillness of some singers. Thank goodness.
Also present are Lucine Amara, Mildred Miller, Kim Borg, and Ezio Flagello.
For a non-opera buff like me, Le Nozze di Figaro was an enjoyable experience. The recording from the Metropolitan Opera under the leadership of conductor Erich Leinsdorf and chorus master Kurt Adler is something special. Mozart’s music is the stuff angels aspire to sing, of course, so it pays to have such an impeccable “ground crew” hammering things out.
Along with the three CDs is a helpful booklet that provides information as to who’s singing what and when. This is particularly good news for those who feel they’ve been tossed in the operatic deep end without a life preserver. Also in the booklet is a synopsis that outlines the drama and comedy to the production.
While opera is not really my thing, I more than enjoyed my time with Le Nozze di Figaro. The performers are elegant and professional and the production is a treat.