Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Marriage of Figaro

Dr. Bob Prescribes Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro

My Dr. Bob Prescribes post for February 21 of this year feature Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s superb video of Gioachino Rossini’s Barber of Seville. During the course of that post, I wrote: “Comedy requires deftness, speed, and timing, timing, and more timing. Ponnelle’s production has it all, and the opera crackles under his direction. I would like to say that I can hardly imagine an equally good opera film, but actually, I can: Ponnelle’s own version of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, filmed in 1976. With an all-star cast featuring Hermann Prey, Mirella Freni, Dieterich Fischer-Dieskau, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Maria Ewing; accompanied by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Karl Böhm; staged and directed by Ponnelle; and produced by DG, this version of Figaro remains among the very best opera films I’ve ever seen. I will find a reason to feature the performance in a post of its own sooner than later.” Yesterday’s anniversary of the premiere of The Marriage of Figaro on May 1, 1786, is all the excuse we need to celebrate Ponnelle’s film! Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1932-1988) The opera director and designer Jean-Pierre Ponnelle was born in Paris on February 19, 1932. He died, much too young, in Munich on […]

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Music History Monday: The Enduring Miracle

On Monday, May 1, 1786 – 231 years ago today – a miracle occurred in the great city of Vienna: Wolfgang Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro received its premiere at the Burgtheater in Vienna. 100 years later, Johannes Brahms wrote this about The Marriage of Figaro: “Every number in Figaro is for me a marvel; I simply cannot fathom how anyone could create anything so perfect. Such a thing has never been done, not even by Beethoven.” 231 years after the premiere, Brahms’ awe of Figaro mirrors our own. For many of us – myself included – it is, simply, the greatest opera ever composed. On May 7th, 1783 – three years before the premiere – Mozart wrote to his father: “The Italian opera buffa [here in Vienna] is very popular. I have looked through more than a hundred libretti but I have found hardly a single one that satisfies me. That is to say, there are so many changes that would have to be made that any poet, even if he were to undertake to make them, would find it easier to write an entirely new text. Our poet here now is a certain da Ponte. He has […]

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