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Image Entertainment presents
Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (1987)

"If our little count wishes to dance, it is I who will play the tune for him."
- Figaro (Mikael Samuelson)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: December 10, 2002

Stars: Per-Arne Wahlgren, Sylvia Lindenstrand, Georgine Resick, Mikael Samuelson, Ann-Christine Biel
Other Stars: Karin Mang-Habshi, Erik Saeden, Torbjoern Lilliequist, Bo Leinmark, Karl Robert Lindgren, Birgitta Larsson
Director: Thomas Olofsson

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes, breast fondling)
Run Time: 02h:58m:45s
Release Date: November 12, 2002
UPC: 014381930122
Genre: opera

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A+B+B D-

DVD Review

Beaumarchais shocked and scandalized the theaters of the 18th century with his trilogy of bawdy plays centering on the rascally character, Figaro. The second play of this trilogy was adapted by librettist Lorenzo da Ponte and composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with the result being one of the greatest achievements of opera buffo. Mozart and da Ponte assumed the audience's familiarity with the first play, which would later be set to music by Rossini as The Barber of Seville. In that play, Count Almaviva pursued the beautiful Rosina, ward of Dr. Bartolo. Although Dr. Bartolo has designs on Rosina himself, he is foiled by the titular barber, Figaro, who contrives the happy union of the Count and Rosina.

In the Mozart opera, the now wedded Almaviva (Per-Arne Wahlgren) and Rosina (Sylvia Lindenstrand) are no longer exactly a happy couple. Almaviva has his eye on Susanna (Georgine Resick), lady-in-waiting to the Countess and also the intended of Figaro (Mikael Samuelson). Matters are complicated for Figaro by the fact that he has borrowed a large sum of money and hidden in the fine print of the contract is a provision that on failure to pay he must marry the elderly Marcellina (Karin Mang-Habshi). This twist has been engineered by Bartolo (Erik Saeden), who is fixated on getting his revenge against Figaro for spoiling his plans in the first play. In the mix is Cherubino (Ann-Christine Biel), a youthful page with a crush on the Countess. Assignations lead to misunderstandings and complications galore through the four acts of the opera.

Per-Arne Wahlgren makes for an excellent Almaviva, standing a head and a half over the rest of the cast and dominating the proceedings appropriately, since it his willfullness that governs much of the action. He has a fine, rich voice that suits the role of seducer quite well. Mikael Samuelson, who stole the show as Papageno in the companion release of Mozart's The Magic Flute demonstrates a broader range here while still making great hay with one of the classic comic roles. He both takes great relish in the scheming nature of the recurring theme "Se vuol ballare", and also gives Figaro a greater depth as he suspects Susanna of cuckolding him in Act IV in his aria after "Tutto e disposto." The result is a Figaro with more substance than one is used to seeing.

The supporting cast gives fine performances throughout, with Ann-Christine Biel's Cherubino being especially noteworthy. He is the usual silly youth in love, but she also gives the role a certain amount of pathos, paralleling the deepening of Figaro's character. In particular, the famous aria "Non piu andrai" that ends Act I reduces Cherubino to tears as he dashes his hopes. The part-work of Lindenstrand and Resick as they scold Almaviva in tandem is precise and delicate, giving everything one could want from this segment. Bartolo is entertaining, although one-dimensional, in his determination for revenge and his glee at procuring it.

The presentation of the opera is in the Drottningholm Court Theatre, a small and intimate venue that is intended to approximate the performances under Mozart's baton in the late 1780s. In the spirit of this presentation, the orchestra plays on period instruments (and wears period costumes to boot). The result sounds equally intimate, with a nice warmth. The only notable exception is the use of a fortepiano for the continuo accompaniment during the recitatives; the instrument sounds rather clunky and clumsy and tends to draw attention to itself. A harpsichord probably would have been more effective. But this is a fairly minor complaint against a production that does so many other things very, very well. It is much improved over the presentation of The Magic Flute at this same theatre (and with much the same cast), which I found highly offensive; the failings of that disc are very largely remedied on this companion volume.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame presentation looks much, much better than the dismal and overly dark look of The Magic Flute. Everything here is well lit, with good clarity. Even Act IV, which necessarily is set in substantial darkness, is readily legible. There are a few tradeoffs; occasionally there are hot spots that are overly lit; these tend to flare white and hot pink, but they're infrequent enough to not be disturbing. Color is good, with a golden glow suffusing the proceedings. On a few brief occasions, reds are oversaturated. The picture is a bit soft, but not any worse than one would expect for a video presentation from the 1980s.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Italianyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 and Dolby Surround tracks are barely distinguishable, beyond the somewhat louder recording level on the 5.1 tack. Both offer substantial surround activity, though directionality is often quite confused with voices coming partly from the front and back. The vocals have a good clarity, and again, unlike the Magic Flute disc, the backstage noise is thankfully reduced to a tolerable bare minimum. Some moderate hiss is present; I would expect some in a live presentation such as this one, but the levels of the hiss seem a trifle high here.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 41 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 40 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: EastPack
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:35m:23s

Extras Review: Beyond an insert with a track listing and adequate chaptering, there's nothing here in the way of extras. On the positive side, the subtitles are removable, and the layer change comes between Acts II and III at a fade to black, so it is not obtrusive.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Mozart's greatest comic opera comes to life in a fine presentation that both looks and sounds quite good (a modicum of hiss notwithstanding).


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