René Jacobs has done it again. Following on the heels of his superb Cosi fan tutte, he now offers a Nozze di Figaro which is alive and vibrant; it seems to be happening in real time. There's so little artifice in the char... more »acters' recitatives and the rhythm is so conversational that we get the impression of real people, in a real pickle of a situation. The singing/acting is stunning, with Simon Keenlyside's Count the best on CD (a dangerous man just in control of his anger), Veronique Gens' Countess girlish and womanly in equal measure, the Cherubino of Angelika Kirchschlager extraordinarily well sung and properly boyish, Patrizia Ciofi's Susanna witty and wise and Lorenzo Regazzo's Figaro slightly darker than others, but all the more interesting for it. Throughout, the pianoforte not only accompanies but acts as commentator on the action. I don't find it intrusive but some might. Jacobs' instrumentalists play with real energy and brightness. This is a performance which feels as if it's being seen as well as heard. Just grand. --Robert Levine« less
René Jacobs has done it again. Following on the heels of his superb Cosi fan tutte, he now offers a Nozze di Figaro which is alive and vibrant; it seems to be happening in real time. There's so little artifice in the characters' recitatives and the rhythm is so conversational that we get the impression of real people, in a real pickle of a situation. The singing/acting is stunning, with Simon Keenlyside's Count the best on CD (a dangerous man just in control of his anger), Veronique Gens' Countess girlish and womanly in equal measure, the Cherubino of Angelika Kirchschlager extraordinarily well sung and properly boyish, Patrizia Ciofi's Susanna witty and wise and Lorenzo Regazzo's Figaro slightly darker than others, but all the more interesting for it. Throughout, the pianoforte not only accompanies but acts as commentator on the action. I don't find it intrusive but some might. Jacobs' instrumentalists play with real energy and brightness. This is a performance which feels as if it's being seen as well as heard. Just grand. --Robert Levine
"Unlike his Cosi the set does not include a special CD-ROM, but he includes so much written information explaining why he made the choices he made, such as ornamenation, while recording this great work. I usually do not like period instrument recordings, but Jacobs makes a strong case for Mozart's works being presented this way. The Concerto Koln plays fantastically and the conducting is wonderful. His tempos are faster than most will be used to, but he provides evidence that Mozart himself preferred faster typos and also lets us know that Mozart left no metronome markings for Figaro, which is something I did not know. I think his faster typos make perfect sense, considering the action that is taking place on stage. For example, I have never understood a slow paced "Non so piu cosa son". Cherubino is a teenager who is in love and completely out of control. The text that is being sung also implies that a faster speed is appropriate. I am not talking patter fast, just faster than most conductors have given us. However, when times call for slow tempos, Jacobs delivers. I feel his conducting is near perfection.Like his Cosi, he encourages ornamentation. However, his singers were provided with examples of aria ornamentation, from Figaro, before Mozart's death. Often times, I am anti-ornamentation because I feel singers go to far and basically ruin the piece rather than enhance it. However, the ornamentations on this recording are done beautifully and tastefully and certainly do enhance the work. The effect is marvelous in giving us something new and beautiful to listen to in an all familiar work. Most of the ornamentations are so small that they can be easily over looked.The cast is exceptional. There is not one week link here, as fars as I am concerned. Ladies and gentlemen, forget Kanawa, forget Schwartzkopf, forget Fleming, forget Janowitz, forget them all (well not seriously) because there is a new Countess in town - Veronique Gens. She is simply marvelous because she has the tonal beauty of Kanawa and Fleming with the tender characterization of Janowitz and Schwartzkopf. She was the ultimate determining factor in my purchasing this work, as I simply cannot tolerate a less than stellar Contessa. I was able to listen to the recording at the store and as soon as she sung the first few phrases of "Porgi, amor" the decision was made and I must say her small ornamentations in "Dovo sono" will simply rip your heart out - absolute and stunning beauty, like nothing I have ever heard. She has certainly topped what she did on Jacobs' Cosi and I am convinced that she is destined to keep company with the great Countess' of the past.We all have been fortunate in that there have been many great recordings of this work and many great Counts on disc. Well, I dare say that Jacobs gives us the best Count yet on disc. Simon Keenlyside's scary yet noble characterization and vocalizations are fantastic. The ending scene with Gens is dynamite.As much as I love this work, I will admit that Susanna sometimes drives me up the wall. Finally, I have a Susanna on disc, in Patrizia Ciofi, that I love and has given me the realization that Mozart did not create a character so annoying, rather those who have sung it are guilty of the crime. Moffo, on Guilini, is great, but every Susanna (from Popp to Battle) that I have on disc drives me up the wall. When I saw the broadcast of the Met's production with Bartoli in the lead, I wanted to jump through the TV and smack her. Ciofi here gives us a great performance and really seems to have grasped the character quite well. Unlike most every Susanna I have seen or heard, she does not overact (like Bartoli) or sing technically perfectly but void of emotion (Battle). Wonderful, that is what she is, wonderful.Lorenzo Regazzo is great as Figaro, seemingly more serious and mistrusting than previous Figaro's on disc, and it works. He shines throughout the recording and his "Non piu andrai" is electric. He and Keenlyside are just perfect together. They really convey the relationship between the two characters wonderfully. It is really something and gave me a whole new understanding and appreciation of the relationship between these two characters.In discussing the work, Jacobs tells us why Basilio's and Marcellina's 4th Act Arias, often omitted, are vital to the story. I must say that I agree. Mozart was a genious and for anyone to presume that they know better than him in deciding to remove these arias, is well ---- idiotic ---- Guilini and Gui. I was glad that Jacobs includes them, as most due, and the performances are great. Marcellina is one of my favorite characters and Marie McLaughlin does not disappoint. She shines in "Il capro e la capretta", which is one of my favorite arias in the work. I also very much enjoy Kobie van Rensburg's reading of Basilio. He really grasps the character and gives it a new twist, which I enjoy, especially in his 4th Act aria, really interesting and fresh interpretation.Angelika Kirchschalger is fantastic as Cherubino. I have never had a problem with the Cherubino's I have on disc and do not know if I can qualify her as the best, but she is certainly right up there. The performance is first rate and the characterization is brilliant."La vendetta" is one of my favorite parts of this work and Antonio Abete gives us an electrifying performance in this aria and throughout. There are many Bartolo's on disc that I enjoy, so unlike the Count, Figaro, Countess, and Susanna, this performance doesn't stand out, but it is a great performance in a cast without a single weak link. Everything about this recording is fantastic, from the dynamtic recitativo to the great finales. I know I have not offered up once piece of criticism, but I honestly cannot find one, and I am not alone - Classics Today gave this recording 10 out of 10. It is simply marvelous and is definitely better than his triumphant Cosi.Let us hope that Jacobs records more of Mozart's works. I am hoping he gives me another Don Giovanni to love, as all others seem to be garbage in comparision with Guilini's work. It is very strange to me that perhaps the greatest opera ever written has one great recording. Go there next Jacbos, I have full faith in you."
What major reviews have said about this recording!
gellio | San Francisco, CA | 05/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Reviews The Times (9 Apr 2004) "The wayward account of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro by René Jacobs... will keep you busy and amazed . Utterly exhilarating." The Independent on Sunday (28 Mar 2004) "Concerto Koln's playing is beautifully balanced, with an unusually dynamic fortepiano continuo. Of the cast, Keenlyside's Count is most interesting: properly threatening and pleasingly unpredictable. Though Jacobs's tempi verge on the breathless in some arias, his control of the ensembles is exhilaratingly tight. Not a quaver is lost, not a nuance ignored." The Sunday Telegraph "I learned to love and appreciate the opera afresh...This is a major issue, marvellously recorded." The Sunday Times "After his exhilarating Così five years ago, Jacobs delivers a fresh view of this much-recorded music. I haven't enjoyed a Figaro so much in years." The Observer CD of the Week"Keenlyside's robust Count is every inch a match for Regazzo's sonorously Italian Figaro, with Gens a sumptuous Countess and Ciofi a feisty Susanna. Throw in Kirchschlager's beguiling Cherubino, plus terrific ensemble support, and you have a racy, pacy, really thrilling new account of one of the greatest of all operas." The Daily Telegraph CD of the Week"This is an undeniably exciting, challenging Figaro, with a cast who works brilliantly as a team. Veronique Gens brings a mingled finesse and vulnerability to the Countess's music, while Simon Keenlyside's Count - truly formidable, yet capable of honeyed suavity - is as charismatic as any on disc." The Guardian CD of the Week"This is as fine a Figaro as has appeared on disc in the past 20 years, and certainly the best of the four so far that have used period instruments. The cast has no significant weaknesses, and the playing of the Concerto Köln is alive to every nuance of the score. Most important of all, this is a version of Figaro that sounds as if it has come straight out of the theatre, as if the spontaneity of a live performance had been reconciled with the accuracy and attention to detail afforded by studio takes. There is always the twinkling sense of dramatic give-and-take that is the hallmark of a good performance of Figaro in the opera house, and for which Jacobs must be given most of the praise; his approach to the score is a perfect amalgam of the scholarly and the practical." The Daily Telegraph (24 Apr 2004) Classical CD of the Week"This is an undeniably exciting, challenging Figaro, with a cast who works brilliantly as a team. Veronique Gens brings a mingled finesse and vulnerability to the Countess's music, while Simon Keenlyside's Count - truly formidable, yet capable of honeyed suavity - is as charismatic as any on disc." Gramophone Editor's Choice"One of the most dynamic period-instrument conductors in Europe, René Jacobs, is also, thankfully, one of the most prolific in the studios. How splendid then, that Gramophone's current Record Label of the Year is carrying the torch for recorded opera with a superb new Figaro. With Simon Keenlyside and Véronique Gens heading the cast, this set captures some of today's finest singers." ClassicsToday.com Artistic Quality 10 / 10 Sound Quality"René Jacobs here gives us a "Nozze" that's so vibrant as to be practically visible. Simon Keenlyside's Count is simply the best on disc... Jacobs is the true star.. he brilliantly realizes the comedy of the text and music. This is top of the line.""
Best recording that I've heard
Katie | United States | 11/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I suggest that anyone looking for an ideal first recording to have read my review, because I've put a lot of research into the various Figaro recordings. And I was once in that exact same spot: which recording is best? I didn't want to buy every single one! I'm reviewing, in fact, to impart what I've learned from this unto someone else, so that they won't have to spend so much money searching for that perfect recording.
Anyway, my friend and I had fallen in love with this opera not too long ago. Back then, I was under the impression that, like most things, there would be an ideal standard. Well, it wasn't that easy. We discovered that looking for the best Figaro recording is very, very, difficult. Every good review is countered by a bad one. We read all reader reviews, professional reviews, and listened to previews. Eventually, between the two of us, we got: this one (Jacobs,) Giulini, and Bohm.
I can safely say that this is the best recording that I've heard yet. I recommend it as a first recording for Figaro nerds-in-training or people who just want a copy that they can pop into the CD player.
Some people think that the conducting is too fast. I think that it's perfect--Bohm's is too slow, Giulini's is nicely fast enough (though the recits are ridiculously fast, to the point of being confusing) but this one has so much energy. Remember, the opera is about the "follies of a day." It's just supposed to be full of zest and life. And the recits are the perfect pace, in my opinion.
The singing is beautiful: there is not one person whose performance I dislike. What's odd is that I got this recording first, and though I liked it I wanted to make sure that I got the best out there. Well, then I got Giulini and wasn't that impressed, and Bohm I really didn't like, and Kleiber's Figaro, from what I've heard, is so dark... and eventually I came to the realization that this is the best recording we can hope for.
The sound quality is EXCELLENT. I adore the instrumentals. A lot of research was put into this recording, and they tell you all about it in the booklet. Giulini's features only the libretto, which annoyed me a bit. This booklet tells you all sorts of stuff that is so interesting! They put so much effort into everything, from the ornamentations to the conducting tempo to the recits themselves. It's so impressive!
Also, I adore the instrumentals. It gives everything a fresh spin, in my opinion.
So, yes, I recommend this for a first recording. The only complaint people have is about the conducting, and if it's REALLY too fast for you, then get Giulini. But I think that Giulini's pales in comparison to this one, honestly."
Strong ensemble work, some excellent singer, generally stron
Abel | Hong Kong | 02/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some say the best recorded Figaro is Levine's, some say Boehm's, some say E. Kleiber's. Some claim that the best Countess Rosina came from Te Kanawa, some say Schwarzkopf, now some say Veronique Gens. Well, the foregoings are all very good. Neverthelss, Rene Jacobs' account in this recording is good in an unique sense. I could not remember correctly if the Levine version is the one with Anne Sofie von Otter and Barbara Bonney. If that's the case, well, that one is also good in that it has an outstanding ensemble. Jacobs' version is also strong in emsemble work. The long Act II of Le Nozze di Figaro, if not rehearsed adequately with an even cast of musicians (orchestra and singers alike), could drive audiences mad (or 'up the wall' as some say here). It was recorded that this session alone containes over 900 non-stop measures of music. Jacobs succeeded admirably with his cast in delivering a crystalline piece, rich in harmonies with floating melodies continuously. It was almost like a Wagnerian continuation of unending melodies. Well, Gens and Ciofi are all more than adequate, though I would hesitate to put them right on top ahead of predecessors like Schwarzkopf, Janowitz, Della Casa, Gueden and Popp and Bonney. Lorenzo Regazzo did an almost perfect Figaro, just a little bit less in the all-famous 'Non piu andrai', but then only less than Siepi on Kleiber. The real standout in the cast in my view is Simon Keenlyside's Count di Almaviva. He has the right tone, the right nuances, the right mood. Don't suppose Almaviva is an out-and-out rogue. This s a conceited, spoilt, calculating yet naive character. Portrayal of such a character is never easy. Keenlyside did just right - no more, no less. You can catch the aristocratic pride from his singing, at the same time his calculating and suspicious nature. Not even George London did it better on Karajan's recording in 1954."
Mehmet Can El | Izmir, Turkey | 03/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
Mostly we see the modernization at opera on stage directing, stage design and costumes...To realize that, you have to watch the videos of the operas...This recording gives you that feeling by listening...This is a Young and fresh interpretation of Le nozze di Figaro...Sometimes you feel like you are listening a baroque piece while you are listening to this recording...Thats because the orchestra is using the authentic period instruments...But the way they are playing and the way they are singing is absolutely modern and young...I loved the harpsichord player who accompanies the recitativos...He is just like a cast in le nozze...he is acting with his fingers...Singers are at their top...Jacobs conducting is marvellous...Nice Tempos suited to the performance...And the orchestra makes everything brighter...
The style is young and dynamic...A youthened mature Figaro recording...If you are a figaro collector this must be in your shopping basket..."