Even as a cabaret artist, Alfred Dorfer is not known for garish punchlines and fast-paced comedy, but for understatement and bitterly evil abuse from ambush. He now dedicated his first opera direction to Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” and, due to the corona, it celebrated a TV premiere yesterday, Sunday, less in than from the Theater an der Wien. Dorfer is and remains a specialist in the dark glow of the nuances and Florian Boesch as Graf is a congenial partner to him.
The “wedding” is often staged as a lively mistake comedy, in the best case with a double bottom. But we also know dark interpretations that emphasize the brutal, tyrannical of history. The lascivious count, whose desires cannot be warded off by his subordinates, but can only be tricked, appears sometimes as a rascal in a tuxedo, sometimes as a powerful man before the forced insight into his humanity. Florian Boesch puts it on completely outside of these figure drawing comfort zones. His conte is almost disgusting in his loneliness, a broken, angry old man who is suddenly haunted by his demons again and again. Then the stage suddenly becomes dark, right in the middle, and for a few seconds everything is different, apathetic, fearful, the roles of the powerful and the subjects reversed. A window into the soul of the paranoid count, a shadow play in which Mozart’s familiar notes dance all too vividly.
Together with co-director Kateryna Sokolova, Dorfer mostly relies on reduction. The rooms of the castle are empty except for simple seating furniture, the feudal era is clearly past its prime, the clothes are modern, the leadership is serious but withdrawn. The neo-opera maker carefully avoids jokes and slapstick. The staging is not intended for the television camera; it is not designed with strong images enough for it, but it withstands it over long distances. With Robert Gleadow as the likable Figaro and Giulia Semenzato as the tough Susanna, the evening has a center with heart, mind and strong, clear voices. Cristina Pasaroiu sings her Contessa Almaviva enchantingly beautifully, but she cannot scale her stage presence on the screen without loss. The young Austrian mezzo-soprano Patricia Nolz, who has been a member of the Opera Studio of the Vienna State Opera since the current season, made her debut at Vienna as the silky, cheeky Cherubino.
Musically, the television evening makes anticipation of a possible future live experience, not only with the voices, which one can trust in the theater to be even more differentiated, but also with the Concentus Musicus, its precise accompaniment, urgent joy in playing and the handshake with the staging The in-depth shading of the score certainly brings back memories of the dark, shiny feats that its founder Nikolaus Harnoncourt once accomplished on this score. His successor Stefan Gottfried once again proves to be a prudent understanding of the stage – in which detail, of course, can hardly be judged in front of the television screen.
With rehearsals and a premiere in lockdown, Alfred Dorfer has not chosen an easy start in the operatic genre. One can hope that it didn’t scare him off. Because there are many operatic subjects for which his profound tendency to understand by means of grim satire would be a relief. You can feel that – perhaps most strongly – at the end. The reconciliation between the count and the countess is a mockery that he does not seek. While she is going off, eternal loser in a game she has not started, the Count begins to dance in grotesque exuberance. Just as alone as before.
(SERVICE – “Le Nozze di Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte. Direction: Alfred Dorfer and Kateryna Sokolova, Musical direction: Stefan Gottfried. With Florian Boesch, Giulia Semenzato, Robert Gleadow, Cristina Pasaroiu, Patricia Nolz. Concentus Musicus . Broadcast on ORF III,)