[A hug to our French brothers, sisters and nonbinaries. In this case, Friday night onstage in Berlin at Schillertheater: the Contessa of Dorothea Röschmann reacts to the “Voi che sapete” of Marianne Crébassa (Cherubino), as staged by Jürgen Flimm, Berlin/Staatsoper 2015.]
Sometimes, I ask myself whether my little corner of mezzo appreciation and queer opera readings is a frivolous pursuit when it comes to the cogwork of the world, and then I remember that beauty and the celebration of it, in soul and in free minds, is one of the pillars of life quality. As is the art we celebrate and connect to, and the way we connect with each other.
Flimm’s new Berlin “Figaro” is a surprise hit (not just with me, also with the critics) – more intriguing than Flimm’s generally solid work of the recent decade or two. I wasn’t expecting too much out if it, but so far, I have been pleasantly surprised (I am still no great fan of Prohaska, which is a personal thing, so don’t mind me). I have only see bits and pieces so far, but Arte Concert is supposed to put up the recording of the Friday night livestream soon for viewing on demand. There is not much on YouTube yet, either, but there is “Porgi, amor”, there is the Letter Duet, and there is “Voi che sapete” (check the blurb closely), which I found unusually touching here (despite the bustle of additional personnel).
The premise of this staging, set perhaps between the First and Second WWs (perhaps just before the First, adding to the melancholy?), is the Count’s estate spending the summer at the seaside, with the setting inspiring rections that differ from the usual everyday rhythm of social order. It feels light, charming, with just the right combination of giddy smiles and quiet tears that a good French movie tends to bring on (though I will reserve my final judgment until after I have seen the whole production).
Look at this Cherubino and the way the Contessa (fantastic work of a regal Röschmann here) connects with him – one tortured and elated by experiencing desire and affection, the other mourning the loss of precisely this irrecoverable brightness of first, early love. There is a sensuality to their exchange, an oberonesque cobweb thread of attraction, even in their hug, but there is another layer to it: two souls adrift who are recognizing (the Contessa perhaps more so, from her life experience) the kindred pain of loving (and loving invane?) in the other, even if at completely different stages in life.
It’s another take on making the Countess older that the three years of marriage in the Beaumarchais play, but – and not for the first time – it works well and of course it doesn’t hurt that Dorothea Röschmann (I still remember her first Susannas) has a lot of Mozart and “Figaro” and Contessa experience under her belt that shines and shimmers through in every scene. And I swear I did not stumble on this production because of Crébassa, but what a delight to see and hear more of her! Put those two in the garden to drink and flirt gently and talk of love, and I could do without the rest of the characters (note to self: opera fan fiction. Possibly not a bad idea.).
Then again, “Figaro” means everyone, a cosmos that works only as a whole, down to Barbarina’s needle in the haystack. I’ll put up an alert once Arte Concert releases the livestream on demand [Edit: it is now available until February 2016, geoblocking may apply (but JDownloader will work around it): check here]. Meanwhile, come to the seaside and remember falling in love for the first time (and as I type this, I remember mine, who happens to be in town today and I will not see her, perhaps not ever again. But I will look at the sea, and I will listen to “Voi che sapete”, and I will see her in that and I will never not cry, but that is a gift, too).
[YT clip with thanks to ManXeb The 1rst]