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Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) -- Paris/Gardiner DVD

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It is an oft-repeated saw, about life in the heavenly spheres, that the angels revere Bach but listen to Mozart. If they have DVD players, you can bet theyre now watching this stunning production of Le Nozze di Figaro ("The Marriage of Figaro"), which comes about as close to Mozartian perfection as one could possibly hope to get. The faultlessly cast youthful performers bubble with infectious energy. Alison Hagley is a sprightly Susanna with a voice as clear as a bell, and brilliantly matched by a 28-year-old Bryn Terfel both acting and sounding in fine form. Hillevi Martinpelto demonstrates why she is one of the worlds favourite Mozart singers with her melting tones, richly coloured voice and generous stage presence, and Rodney Gilfry gives a muscular, wonderfully controlled performance as the Count. Olivier Milles direction mixes knockabout comedy and restrained pathos with fluid inventiveness, and there are even--heavens, can this really be an opera?--quite a few belly laughs, and deliciously amusing details. (Susannas guitar playing during Cherubinos "Voi che sapete" is a comic delight, and Figaros hidden sneers at Count Almaviva are hilarious.) John Eliot Gardiner draws exquisite playing from his authentic-instrument orchestra and employs tempos that are ideal. Add to that gorgeous 18th-century costumes and effective sets--it doesnt get much better than this. On the DVD: the production is beautifully realised for home viewing, with clear sound (the sets are simple wooden panels, which continually and flatteringly push the sound to the front) and great camera direction. There are subtitles in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Chinese but no other special features.--Warwick Thompson

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