* This is the first in a series on the 2006 Salzburg Festival, in which the 22 filmed operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were diversely and, sometimes, radically staged by the most innovative directors working in opera today. The results provoked wildly mixed reactions and controversy, proving that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remains a vital voice in the world of 21st century music.
In 1786, Le nozze di Figaro, the first of Mozart’s operas with librettist Fr. Lorenzo Da Ponte, premiered in Vienna. Contrary to legend, the opera was a considerable success, with a libretto pre-approved by emperor Joseph II. Arguably, it is the greatest of Mozart’s operas, although some musicologists give that honorary title to Don Giovanni (also written with Da Ponte). Still, the overall consensus is that Figaro is not only Mozart’s greatest opera, but it may very well be the greatest opera to date by any composer of any time, period.
The opera was based off of Pierre Beaumarchais’ play (one of three Figaro plays), which had a well-earned reputation as subversive and revolutionary (Beaumarchais was also Voltaire’s publisher). That Joseph II approved Da Ponte’s libretto was a little short of miraculous. While the heavier political implications were removed from the text, the defiant, satirical tone ridiculing the aristocracy was, of course, the meat of the plot (the servants eventually best their autocratic master). The opera, like the play, resonated with the masses. With that in mind, a non-revolutionary Figaro seems an oxymoron.
Over two hundred years later, The Marriage of Figaro remains an extraordinarily three dimensional work, which does not flinch from portraying deeply flawed characters. Numerous filmed versions of the opera have been released on DVD, but the 2006 Salzburg entry may be the most uncompromising to date. There is, of course, Peter Sellars’ mid-nineties version (which, aptly, takes place in Trump Tower), but the line-up of the 2006 Continue reading M22: THE MOZART OPERAS AT SALZBURG (2006): LE NOZZE DE FIGARO