The Aix 2012 “Figaro” Liveblogging Thread

opernglas

Welcome to the White Shirt live comment thread for Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” from the Aix-en-Provence festival in 2012, starring
Patricia Petibon as Susanna
Malin Byström as the Countess
Kate Lindsey as Cherubino
Kyle Ketelsen as Figaro
Paulo Szot as Count
Anna Maria Panzarella as Marcellina
Mario Luperi as Bartolo
John Graham-Hall as Basilio
Emanuele Giannino as Don Curzio
Mari Eriksmoen and Barbarina
René Schirrer as Antonio

Jérémie Rhorer conducts Le Cercle de l’Harmonie, the staging is by Richard Brunel.

The production is available  on YT; the libretto in English, German and Italian can be found here.

309 thoughts on “The Aix 2012 “Figaro” Liveblogging Thread”

    1. this is the Archeveche, the main stage – Archibishop Palais courtyard. (I used another one a bit further out in the countryside)

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  1. that blouse does count as a white shirt. I’d say.

    She sounds darker, warmer and fuller than I’d have expected for 2012. Sound capture comes acorss very well here.

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  2. This Susanna is truly worried about the Count – I like the absence of cutesy coquetishness here.

    (on a sidenote, I’d so have a prosecco with this Marcellina to learn ALL the office gossip – the looks she keep tossing!)

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  3. ah, in the modern world we call this sexual harassment what the count is doing there..
    oh, the shredding machine! luckily not in combo with hurricane and airplane! (but it can come with the other soprano!! i don’t mind!)

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  4. Bartolo is about to commit fraud with evidence bags. The setting translates nicely – perhaps a little too chic, but so far, no jarring. (depends on how they’ll integrate the private sphere/2nd act)

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    1. Which reminds me of the Broadhurst version (in English) where he did a number with Marcellina on the table during this aria (which, as far as power fantasies go, worked pretty well)

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      1. Figaro, way back when, borrowed money from Marcellina and promised her to marry her if he couldn’t pay it back – and now that he actually wants to get married, Marcellina wants to interfere.

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    1. looks both scared (because the underline the Count about to take Figaro away) and trying to think how she can influence him to change his mind – so far, I find harassment very well called out, with enough threat and fear tied to it to stand out.

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  5. so often in this one Susanna’s fainting is fake, and she plays the guys, but here she really seems afraid. It really makes for a completely different atmosphere through PP giving Susanne nerves and fear. It reads as if she truly has to lose something.

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    1. still trying to figure out Figaro’s and Susanna’s roles in this company.. the Count is the big boss it seems… but does Susanna have a position? or is she only the female staffer for Figaro? As if he “shopped” for her thanks to the company parading many female staffers (how they were on display in that spinning office)

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  6. must be their secret back office where all shady activities take place.. should always enter arm with handcuffs
    (and again, why is the “abused” turn to the abuser? Figaro now teaming with the Count on Cherubino..)
    (i should read the libretto probably…)

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    1. to me, it looked more like falling into the abuse pattern and later realizing it was not that funny and being uncomfortable (which is more layered than just irony; I guess)

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    1. 🙂

      for me, it’s back to a pre-teen birthday: my first real opera ticket. At this point, the curtain opened up to Anik’s first lyric soprano crush. I barely knew where to look, I was just keeling over.

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    1. Just as I was about to type, and now for the best scene of the opera, my laptop froze. Am restarting
      But it is probably a good way of describing my reaction to this anyway, every damn time

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  7. so, Susanna and the Countess are awared what the Count is doing.. then Figaro teaming up with the Count to humiliate Cherubino (though as you both observed perhaps only for show), but now they’re encouraging his behavior, almost building another Count from scratch?

    (actually i never quite understand the role of Cherubino in this..)

    (on 3rd note, PP should conduct!!)

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    1. conduct. And dance.

      (I am back).

      To me, the staging really is about power and abuse so far, and how we gloss over it or casually accept it – the women humiliating Cherubino in the beginning (Hiding when he answers) aren’t much better than the Count and Figaro, putting him on display, not taking him seriously… so far, I get a lot of “all the abused ones are turning into abusers” as impressions (I’ve seen this staged as “Cherubino is the only innocent soul”, but I don’t think this evening will go that way).

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  8. They continue to toy with Cherubino (even if he likes it, that does not make it better) – really amping that part. I wonder if it is an accent, or whether it is laying an underlying structure bar to the point of discomfort.

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    1. it i making me wonder how much abuse of power we casually accept in Figaro because we are so used to it and never bother to look at the mechanics behind it. Of course you do not HAVE to stage it with a focus on power moves, but it is true that it can be very well (and uncomfortably) read this way.
      Even Susanne calculating early on on “How do I appease the count?” fits into this.

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  9. every time – oh, I am NOT complaining about the nightgown, even though I do not guess why she would disrobe to seem less suspicious? – some actual connection between people is about to happen, someone interrupts, and it is back to power moves. So far, only Susanna/Figaro escape?

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    1. he did sidle up a little close to Barbarina.
      Perhaps the point is that all he does is try to hit on women (not hit them literally) and how that fits seamlessly into this world, or how everyone calling him out for it is a hypocrite?
      Sympathetic Counts are one of the more interesting takes. Not that they go uncriticized, but that they get fears and doubts and layers.

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  10. Btw, according to the latest in Mozart edition research, the c”’ should go to Susanna again, not to the Countess… (I have seen at least two different Countesses I worked with SO wrecked about that damn C)

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      1. what I find successful until now is that everyone comes across as both vulnerable, and at the same time not innocent (safe for Cherubino, who, I am guessing, with end up using others and palying them, as well?)

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    1. All victims, but all of them not checking their privilege enough and hurting others in returns? Mostly out of thoughtlessness?

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    1. for once i have a lot of questions. here’s one more: Susanna at times looks truly afraid in this six-tet, as if her future survival depends on whether this marriage goes through or not

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      1. that probably means she really wants to get married to Figaro and is desperate because it looks like the authorities will interfere with love? It’s an aspect often downplayed in shows, because “oh, the smart chambermaid will come up with something, and she’s supposed to smile and not have deep feelings all the time”?

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          1. the Count in a way is threating Susanna with deportation: that of Figaro. He tells her early on that he has been named Ambassador to London, and would take Figaro along, effectively separating her from hin.

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  11. well, at least the Finalle III moment with the needle in the letter will go over smoothly with this settling. Needles everywhere.

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      1. wondered the same thing in Brussels – generally, they put it up in flat snail curls, but still, if you’ve got long curls, you tend to end up looking like a egghead.

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  12. oh, okay: not listening in. Just waiting very nervously.

    That duet is, I find, one of the most interesting Mozart has written, period. So much getting entangled in sensuality at large, so many layers.

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    1. but if he sings it to others, it looks like self-staging again – would likely add more depth when having him more alone, or ore struggling?

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  13. Darn, I am conflicted about Byström – the sound is beautiful, and interestingl dark, but, as Agathe said, bordering on heaviness.

    —wait,s he is singing this to Susanna? And Figaro??

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    1. yes, i quite love her dark sound.. and my intro to this is A.Harteros so i have no issue with heaviness…
      and yes, to the non-moving bystanders.. in a world surrounded with human but no connection?

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    1. I remember I wasn’t thoughtful, I was just so nervous I though I would throw up. Complete tunnel experience, surroundings barely registered.

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      1. Nervousness nearly got me into a laughing fit at the registration office because the young registrar wanted to get it really right and serious and was speaking so slowly and sententiously and we couldn’t look a teach other in fear of bursting out laughing.

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        1. Oh, that is a great story for your grandkids!

          Being able to laugh together is one of the pillars of a working matrimony, right?😉

          (I remember the justice of peace giving us a lengthy speech about sharing household chores, and the 3-year-old nephew who was supposed to bring us the rings throwing a tantrum and refusing, and then we had a drink in the bar across the street afterwards and then we had to pick up groceries for dinner, so we exchanged the heels for sneakers showed up in white dresses at the supermarket. Which is my story for the grandkids)

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  14. …in comparison, i.e. check out A. Fritsch’s Countess in that Downtown Abbey Figaro from Salzburg, which I watched just recently. I prefer that lighter, more effortless sound.

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    1. it really is a stylistic choice that goes into what character you want to have as the Countess. I think both can work, but it is one of those roles that hinges so much on personal preference because so much of it is about color much more than any kind of particular technical ability.

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  15. overall, I think Dove s0no is, of the two arias, the better fit for Byström. She does not do HUGE archs, but she does get to show of that darker lower middle, which is exceptional.

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    1. wow, the treatment to future daughter-in-law! but i guess it’s more a slap to “snap out of it!” before they could even talk to her..
      “ta mère?” , love her facial expression!

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    2. as close to slapstick as opera can get!
      but I think it also works because she puts that fury in it (agency), and blends it with being completely flabbergasted.

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      1. I think it would be very difficult to stage Susanna/Contessa as a story and don’t see that, either, but – especially in the music here – there are simply moments of sensuality between the characters that are not united by plot in this sense

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  16. there are so many points – also in the last Act – where I always have to think how Figaro deals with an overarching idea of sensuality, musically, that strings the characters along and creates connection moments.
    In this one as well.
    (they may be singing about a guy, but they are not, this is bigger)
    (and actually this take, of Susanna first not wanting to — and PP is singing this very straight-toned at first, and then “melts into it” — and then getting caught up, works very well on that plane)

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  17. Is the Cuunt supposed to be on of those “my wife is so pregnant and I am so desperate types”? Hands off Barbarina there!

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  18. Eriksmoen is actually too far along for a Barbarina here already. (I think she is Zerlina in the Don Giovanni at TADW this upcoming season?)

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    1. yes. this looks almost always off.
      I remember working on this sene with a director once who told the Marcellina, “this is not all maternal. You are still struggling with this. Don’t touch him in a completely motherly way. You are still learning to be his mother. until this afternoon, you wanted to marry him yourself!”

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    1. true.
      Also, sorry, Figaro, but he ladies are changing costumes, I can’t really be expected to listen to you drown on about how women are evil.

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    1. and a full costume switch – I think this works well. All the debate on “for whom was that aria written” actually is not an issue when it is taken that way: as Susanna playing Countess.

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  19. And this is for me another one of these moments where the characters simply end up as human beings in an overarching sensuality. (I don’t know how to put this very well.)

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    1. well, he thinks it is Susanna? and that Susanna is cheating with the Count, so “surely she will also cheat with him”. (which is the attitude that got me so made in the Così about seducing Dorabella a few weeeks ago).

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      1. well of course, and that’s very bad attitude, I meant, Susanna & countess both played with him quite badly before, but, yes, still no reason to return abuse

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        1. oh, I didnt think about it that way – true. Still no excuse, as you say, but they did not treat him differently, either.

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  20. oh, Susanna checking back for details with the Countess – “I’ll unmask and let Figaro know, you okay with that”
    Nice touch”

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  21. oh, that’s cutting the evening off and selling it under worth – it was more complex that “The Count runs off and tries to seduce the next woman at the office while the Countess looks on with despair”

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      1. that was also a really good take musically. I found the Count and Figaro a little on the dry side during the last Act, but hats off to the tempi and keeping with them.

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      2. There was a bit of a similar approach in the Salzburg staging (it can be found on Servus TV), although there, the Count remembered the Countess in the end and drew her into the party. Maybe a way to deal with this very sudden happy ending, which is difficult to swallo on it’s own, given everything that went on before?

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        1. “make it all happy” is hard to sell, I think but “oh, let’s carry on as before” is too easy and cynical, as well. Remembering her in the end (or forgetting her in the very end) works better, I find. Something that is neither black nor white.

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          1. For Mozart, any resolution — harmonic or dramatic — is temporary, soon to be followed by new overtures, new modulations, new irresolutions. The tensions interest him more than the concords, and it is his genius to express character changing under pressure of event. He involves the audience in the emotions and decisions of characters who are not complete, will never be complete. The world presumably looked to him like that.

            Compared to the heroic determinations so frequent in Handel or Verdi, strength of will in Mozart is dangerous and rarely successful. It’s a humane and civilized viewpoint, “piu docile.” But very difficult to sum up: Rosen notes that the finales of early acts are usually stronger than those of later ones. For everyone except Giovanni, there’s always a morning after, another folle journée.

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          2. But didn’t Rosen start his equation at the Figaro & Giovanni finali, sort of a priori? Also a thing of plot mechanics , depending to a degree on Beaumarchais… ( the decision to group things up in finally not, of course)

            But even within that frame, I would argue that Figaro is a special case, or the peak point of this. The speed and changes are implicitly tied into the stance on humanity, but I believe the absence of heroics you point out and the focus on imperfection really is the singular thing, and to a degree he even manages it within seria structure (Tito) but the register really makes a difference there – representational genres don’t come with built-in smiles at human flaws. And probably the comedy ones resonate so much under current anthropological premises because we have a adapted a stance on recognizing and accepting flaws (I think this integrated differently into a more deterministic world view, but I need more coffee before I could attempt to argue a more coherent point there).

            >

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          3. „The tensions interest him more than the concords, and it is his genius to express character changing under pressure of event.“

            Thank you, yes! And this aspect of character development and conflicts in relation to each other somehow wasn’t so well captured in this Aix Figaro in my perception. I.e. I did not see much emotion/hurt going on between Count and Countess and in the Count in relation to Susanna. Susanna was frightened and scheming the Count in defense but it would have been more interesting to see her wavering in her affections a bit. Cherubino had the most depths in his character display, being torn between getting hurt by and drawn to his treatment by the ladies. To be fair, the very quick tempi in the recits in this take also made it harder to point out nuances of character interplay so I may have missed some aspects, also due to the blogging at the side.
            The abuse of Cherubino was making it very hard for me to understand the characters of Figaro and Susanna. Who would just stand and watch while your finacee physically abuses a young trainee? (and the very realistic setting made it hard to regard this just metaphorically).
            This abuse/threat of deportation etc. scheme may be a valid interpretation, also in historical context, but for me, this was a bit at the cost of a more nuanced character display and its congruence with the music. PP’s best scene for me was „Deh vieni“, where, as you said Anik, she has the opportunity to act independently of others, calming everything down and also just letting the music speak, and what a fabulous interpretation!
            I also missed the comedy aspects a bit, especially in Act I, where all this hide and seek business is so nicely worked out by Mozart/Da Ponte but needs very good timing to work and this aspect was played down, probably also in the view of the abuse scheme.

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          4. Another point may be that the office setting (in addition to the tempi) does not really further intimacy, especially with people always addressing groups of other people.

            So both Figaro and Susanna ended up being less kind – which may be an overall point: that people who get to feel the abusive effects of power strutures will more or less automatically repeat them. Them being less kind because they are flawed is a somewhat cynical tendency afloat perhaps in the past dozen years in opera staging at large: that kindness is uncool and unrealistic and productions have to adapt a postmodern sneer at such naiveté at all costs. Whereas I would think that Mozart fits a flawedness that, despite all shortcomings, allows for the vulnerability of kindness and warmth.

            The comedy in Act 1 really got lost, but I also think the set with the shelves did not really aid the small-space comedic effects of the hide-and-seek between Susanna, Basilio, the Count and Cherubino.

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          5. True, about the office setting and intimacy, although I would find it particularly tempting to still sneak in some intimacy through glances, gestures etc. A further obstacle is, that all the realistic little office life details, while being fun, also mean more distraction from the main course of events, a bit similar to the Brussels Mitridate.

            Interesting, what you write about cynical tendencies in stagings and this also relates well to a previous discussion here, I think in relation to the Geneva Alcina, on how many directors don’t put enough trust in the work they stage itself and in the audiences to appreciate it, thinking they have to spice things up. Or, there is this other aspect of wanting to get audiences out of their comfort zone, and I appreciate that in general, but it is a pity if that happens at the cost of a works essence, particularly in Mozart.

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          6. yes, particularly Mozart – it may be a reception history thing, but I believe that part of it is also the approach to “character” in Mozart per se.

            (I will have to think more about this)

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          7. “And probably the comedy ones resonate so much under current anthropological premises because we have a adapted a stance on recognizing and accepting flaws (I think this integrated differently into a more deterministic world view)” —
            Rosen again (not only do I da Pontificate, I also Rosenate) — on later-18thC comedy as turning from comedy of characters/humors, to comedy of general human nature, with plot acting as psychological experiment and demonstration (for fuller text, in Google Books see The Classical Style, p313 et seq) — like humor characters and commedia maschere, determined, but less individually; like social-system plots, determined, but with all classes sharing the same nature.
            Mozart, however, does appear more fully modern, suited to a theory of human nature in which all can be interpreted yet each is special, of individuals responding to social situations that they take for granted, but within which they struggle to achieve their desires, hurting and forgiving and needing each other. He is more humane than Beaumarchais, da Ponte, or Schikaneder. Or anyone since, one sometimes feels.

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          8. And I so enjoy it when you Da Pontificate!

            indeed: no one else, one sometimes feels. (I am still not sure how much of that is objective on my part)

            “from character to human nature” – I will need to read the context (thank you fo the page numbers!), but I think I would describe it diametrically opposed (not a way rom individualtiy, but towards individuality that then resonates universally through the, as mentioned by Rosen, destabilizing of class) though with the same intent. In my theoretical frame, ‘character’ is a later 18th century term, so I’d describe it as the prior mask comedy types giving way to a more psychological-individual narrative precisely with a focus on a psychological ‘character’ that then is (Alle Menschen – at least the white able-bodies Christian cis men – werden Brüder) supposed to be read universally.

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  22. the only ones who got away as a “healthy relationship” were Figaro and Susanna, I think? Who act more as equals? But individually, they also partake in using and objectifying others. As do all the others, but the focus on power and status really made harassment as a larger cultural issue stand out. I like that.

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    1. yes, i think it was this staging that got her on the WS radar.. though shockingly it took me until Paris Mitridate to have PP on my radar.. (but i already thought i should always go back to this simply from her spin! and that quick “poc” with the finger, and the acting… )

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          1. here. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this.. it’s a different more somber key right? as she changed from highly charged to really a deep mood of vulnerability.. the anguish on the face.. absolutely gets me, more so with time..

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          2. those are the rare, really good ones: the staging that get better with every watching and that continue to make you think (and make you happy).

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          3. Analyzing harmonics over breakfast coffee here – nominally, not leaving C major, but still plowing through the 7th chords, definitely added tension- let back to you on that after some more coffee.

            >

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          4. Her Aspasia also makes me wonder if there couldn’t have been more to her Susanna, but I guess the quickness of tempi would make it very hard to bring in interpretation beyond the one intended by the director.

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          5. Yes, I wondered that, too – and whether it is built-in because there are no moments of repose other than Deh vieni, which she aced. And also, whether the tempi, as you say, made it even more difficult to try. So Mozart characters, at least later ones, depend more on community to build profile than solo scenes (which barely exist, and in thet production, even less), but that’s also seria va. buffa types.

            >

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    2. yes, I wanted to say the same – both of her arias were very, very good here, including the very fast take on the first one- And her acting was really the focal point to making casual abuse visible. Her Cherubino was at several points the moment where things simply were not funny anymore: suddenly actual heartbreak, embarrassent, fear (the fear point was also well done in PP*s Susanna)

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  23. ok, am out, back to bed for a couple more hours before getting back to work.. surely with this as reading background and some rewinding of PP’s singing..
    thanks again for a really pleasant opera “inting”! !

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    1. Glad to hear that. And oh, on that note: I would also recommend the MET 2011 (?) “Comte Ory” with DiDonato – Damrau – Florez.
      The staging is somewhat conventional (also, you must not be allergic to pink, otherwise you cannot watch it), with some stuck poses, but the singing is truly stellar and it is such fun just to listen in on this vocal (and at one point, also literal) threesome. Now and then it is on YT, if not, I could send you a copy.

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