Iván Fischer makes you look and listen to opera differently by knitting music and the theatre more closely. The conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra prefers to call productions such as Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro which he brought to the Edinburgh International Festival last night as “staged concerts.”
He had the full orchestra on the stage with a small central, raised platform for the action. And it was action packed with actors rushing on carrying bundles of costumes and dressing up. Singers strutted through the orchestra occasionally addressing Fischer or perhaps a wind player. The conductor meanwhile led most of the opera from a chair set to one side near the second violins giving a delighted audience an unobstructed view.
The cast enhanced the general silliness of Mozart’s plot with touches of slapstick including a clown who would plant wigs on members of the orchestra, stage crew, the audience and Fischer. The lead roles were well-balanced with Hanno Müller-Brachmann as the clever rogue Figaro, Sylvia Schwartz as his lover Susanna, Markus Werba as the lecherous Count and Miah Persson as the wronged Countess Almaviva. The pace, ease and fun of the evening was contagious.
Fischer in the programme notes says visual innovation combined with musical conservatism of the last generation provide lessons about opera. “Now it is time to look for an alternative approach, for an organic unity…I no longer want to separate music from theatre.”