Le nozze di Figaro (in February) and Don Giovanni (in December). there are few operas closer to the Viennese opera public’s collective heart, so these will probably be a big deal. I’d never heard of Martinoty before, it seems he has rarely directed outside France (a place I have spent woefully little time). But that Figaro is already on DVD, and I found the (obscure) book. Let’s take a look.
Martinoty’s Figaro has big shoes to fill: it will replace a classic Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production (oddly, Martinoty is a former Ponnelle collaborator). But Martinoty’s production isn’t new either, it’s a 2006 job being bought from a theater in Paris... yeah, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Dominique Meyer's old haunt. Funny how that works. While Martinoty could change a lot of things for its Staatsoper iteration, I watched the DVD, and I can’t say I was overwhelmed.
part-time strongman Luca Pisaroni as Figaro, will be coming to the Staatsoper. This is good because he’s good. But the rest of the singers will be different. (The Vienna cast will include, promisingly, Dorothea Röschmann as the Countess and Anna Bonitatibus as Cherubino, and, weirdly, Erwin Schrott as the Count.)
The setting is traditional 18th century. The Personenregie is lively with a good amount of detail, but overall it’s a gropey sort of production, which is unfortunate for an opera that takes the idea of consent extremely seriously. Here, everyone seems way too eager to get into everyone else's pants (or skirts). And the Count’s discovery of Cherubino is inexplicably totally fouled up. Everyone reacts at the wrong time, the first time I have seen this idiot-proof bit of comedy fail. I also didn't like the Countess's china-smashing temper tantrum during the introduction to "Porgi, amor." But mostly the drama unfolds alright. Not the best I’ve seen, but not the worst either. We'll see what dynamic the Vienna cast finds.
The design end--the less easily altered part--poses greater problems. The set (by Hans Schavernoch) is a collage of paintings that serve as backdrop and litter the stage periodically (the Count, we gather at the start of Act III, is a collector). They symbolize various things, some obvious--garden at the end--and others to me completely mystifying, though it was hard to get a good look at them on the DVD. I found the Count beating up the Countess in front of the bottom half of a crucifixion distracting and confusing. The booklet essay seems to imply that there is deeper symbolic system afoot. Even if there is and I missed it, this seems like a lazy way of saying things that you can’t integrate into the performance. The costumes are a sexified version of 18th-century with many heaving bosoms and an indistinct view of social class.
I don’t like productions hanging around for decades and decades, but getting rid of elegantly designed Ponnelle for this seems a shame. But there’s your extra sexxxy Figaro, coming soon to a Staatsoper near you. If you’re near Vienna. I can’t wait, obviously.
Voyages à l’intérieur de l’opéra baroque is a more interesting affair. It’s in French, and I don’t think has been translated into any other languages. Any book dedicated to Jacques Attali with an epigraph from Deleuze is not to be taken lightly, and I and my rusty French and short interlibrary loan period didn’t have time to do it justice. But upon skimming it, I was impressed. I’m not sure how he manages to define Mozart (ending with Cosí) as “baroque,” but he offers studies of a selection of works from Monteverdi to Mozart with basic historic info, plot summaries, and some interesting analyses of the dramaturgical and musical workings of each. It seems smart and hints at someone with more ideas than I got in the Figaro, so maybe there’s still hope.
Anyone from France have anything to add about this somewhat mysterious fellow?