Russia's Bolshoi corrects oversight, mounts Mozart 'Figaro'

(Reuters) – Russia’s Bolshoi theater has a chequered history with Mozart’s ever-popular 1786 opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” (The Marriage of Figaro), having not presented any version of it until 1926.

Now the company presents a new staging by director Evgeny Pisarev that is intended to accent the opera’s lyricism with a cast of mostly young singers, conducted by British maestro William Lacey.

“I am not going to present any radical concepts about how everyone misunderstood this opera until I — the genius — came along and explained it to the world,” Lacey told Reuters Television, speaking before the production premiered on April 25 for a run of eight performances.

“No, I’d like to look at it in the exact opposite direction, which is that Mozart wrote this opera, it’s his piece, and here is his score and this is where everything comes from … I try and make the work about serving Mozart and not about advertising my own brilliance,” Lacey said.

He invited singers from the Bolshoi and beyond to take part in the new staging. Among them are both young singers and those who have already performed on the world’s best stages.

Moscow-born bass Alexander Vinogradov takes the demanding role of Figaro, valet to the womanish Count Almaviva, who has his sights set on Figaro’s bride-to-be, Susanna.

The stage action as Figaro thwarts the count is a great version of drawing-room comedy in opera. It unfurls over three and a half hours, with Figaro on stage much of the time.

“It is often forgotten that everything happens over the course of just one day and the full name of the opera … is `The Crazy Day or the Marriage of Figaro’ …. And at the end of such a day you are like this … ‘That’s it, I am exhausted’,” Vinogradov said as he prepared to go on stage.

This is director Pisarev’s second staging of the story; he recently directed the Beaumarchais play on which the opera is based. Soon after that, he was invited to do the opera, so he had to come up with a new interpretation.

“We are not showing real people, modern times. It is a kind of pastiche in the spirit of the Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel fashion, or some paintings of Mondrian, of French and Italian movies from the 1960s,” Pisarev said.

“It is some kind of a fantasy — bright, festive, more related to modern days than to some baroque pictures that nowadays look fictitious.”

The cast hopes the staging will result in a surge of popularity for Mozart’s masterpiece — and that it becomes a regular part of the company’s repertoire.

(Reporting by Reuters Television, writing by Michael Roddy; editing by Larry King)

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