My friends and I always love to play the “desert island game.” It’s simple– if you were stranded on a desert island, which 5 books, DVDs, etc. would you choose to take with you. When asked about DVDs, most people say things like “Zoolander” or “Rocky.” Being the opera fanatic that I am, I always want to take opera DVDs.
Like most opera fans, I have more than one favorite opera DVD. Therefore, choosing just one was extremely difficult, but I finally let the “warm and fuzzy” side of me make the final decision.
My #1 desert island opera DVD would have to be: W. A. Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro from Glyndebourne in 1994. (Found on Amazon here.) In order to explain why, I have to tell you a story.
Honestly, I used to hate opera. My only exposure to it before college was a bad production of La Bohème and my tomboyish teenager self found it sappy and irrelevant. Then, in my first semester of college, I was “forced” to go to an opera for music history class (I was a Cello Performance major at the time). I dragged my mother, the only one who would go with me to the dreaded opera, to Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera. Needless to say, I was blown away. From that moment on, I was obsessed and, pretty soon after that, I knew that I wanted to pursue this art form professionally.
Therefore, Le Nozze di Figaro has a special place in my heart. Not only is this opera special for that reason, but, as most opera fans will attest, the opera is nearly perfect. The music is beautiful and charming and brilliant all at once, and the cast in this DVD really makes it sparkle. The cast includes Alison Hagley as Susanna, Gerald Finley as Figaro, Renée Fleming as the Countess, Andreas Schmidt as the Count, and Marie-Ange Todorovitch as Cherubino. Bernard Haitink leads the London Philharmonic with his usual grace and scholarship.
This opera always has the ability to make me laugh. There are moments that are funny over and over again: Cherubino being discovered under the sheet in Act I, Susanna emerging from the closet in Act II, and Figaro discovering that Marcellina is– well, I can’t give everything away.
The opera has its heart-warming moments as well. In all the operatic repertoire, there is very little that matches the sheer beauty and rapture of the Act IV finale. Mozart seems to wrap the entire human condition into one opera and illuminate it with his genius. I will never get tired of this opera, because there is always something new to find and something old to appreciate.
Here are some clips from this production:
Renée Fleming sings the Countess’ opening aria, “Porgi amor”.
What is your #1 desert island opera DVD?