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A steady old hand at the Met

Richard Eyre brings a gentle update of “The Marriage of Figaro” to New York

Michael Church | September/October 2014

Why do theatre and film directors create the most durable opera productions? Zeffirelli’s “Tosca” is Covent Garden’s longest-running hit, Jonathan Miller’s English National Opera “Mikado” looks like running for ever, and Richard Eyre’s 20-year-old Covent Garden “Traviata” gets stronger with each revival. No surprise that Eyre should be called in by the Met when a more capricious director pulled out of doing “Figaro”. He was on the spot anyway, directing “Werther”, and his 2009 Met “Carmen” had been a hit. His would be an eminently steady hand on the tiller.

Knighted in 1997 after a glittering career at the National Theatre and on the screen, Eyre has an unerring ability to steer clear of modishness. With opera, his goal is fidelity to the score. Unlike speech in a play, he observed in a recent blog, latitude of expression in opera is not a subjective matter, yet there’s a world of possibilities in the way you tilt a phrase or colour the voice. He has directed “Figaro” before, and looks forward to revisiting it. He promises a gentle update, but not too much—droit du seigneur, which is the pivot of the action, would arouse anything but mirth if presented in a contemporary setting. ~ Michael Church

The Marriage of Figaro Metropolitan Opera, New York, Sept 22nd; HD broadcast Oct 18th

CLASSICAL AT A GLANCE

BBC Proms (Royal Albert Hall, London to Sept 13th). The greatest of music festivals keeps on sparkling with Davis and the Melbourne SO (Aug 19th). Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan (20th), Gardiner's Monteverdi Choi (26th), and Rattle with the Berlin Phil (Sept 6th). 

Les Troyens (Edinburgh Int'l Festival, Aug 28th-30th). Gergiev conducts the Mariinsky company in Yannis Kokkos's spectacular production. 

The Elixir of Love (Sydney Opera House, to August 31st). Simon Phillip's production of Donizetti's comic opera is set in Australia in 1915, with each character given an Aussie twist. 

Beethovenfest Bonn (Bonn, to Oct 3rd). This year’s title is Gotterfunken—Divine Spark. It sweetly asks “Can the world be saved?” and the music, at 21 venues, looks fascinating.

Quai Ouest (Opera National, Strasbourg, Sept 27th). New opera based on an anarchic play by Bernard-Marie Koltès. ~ MC

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