You’re known for your wide repertoire in opera and concert, from Beethoven to Franz Schmidt, from Rossini to Mahler. Why Mozart? Why Figaro?
The answer is very simple: Mozart is the greatest genius in the history of music. And Figaro is probably his most comprehensive work, not only in terms of the perfect balance between the libretto and its musical realization, but also in terms of giving the revolutionary plot a musical voice.
What are the specific challenges of conducting an ensemble piece like Figaro?
It’s a perfect opera, and like all perfect operas (Falstaff for example, or Ariadne auf Naxos) it requires not only technique and musicality, but also personal maturity.
What makes Figaro one of the pinnacles of the repertoire? Why is it so beloved by audiences?
It’s the richness of the characters, some of which are very precise and quite funny, that make this opera so popular. And of course its musical weight justifies the role Figaro plays in the international repertoire.
Your cast includes a German countess, a French count, an Italian Figaro, and an American Susanna and Cherubino. Is Mozart’s music cosmopolitan?
Yes, I think it is. Of course the Italian language is very important, because of Da Ponte’s genius libretto. But the message and the musical language are truly international.
You’ve previously conducted Verdi, Strauss, and Puccini at the Met. What do you like about working with this orchestra?
The Met Orchestra is probably the best opera orchestra in the world, not only because of their technical skills, which are very high. It is the absolute understanding of style: they are at ease with everything—Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, MozartÉ They find the right color and the specific sound for every style.
After the very elegant Figaro, you’ll conduct the harsh, brutal Elektra starting December 10...
These two operas represent two different worlds, two different periods of time. But we shouldn’t underestimate that the creative power of both composers, Strauss and Mozart, is in the details, in the instrumentation, in the interaction between text and musical substance. Both operas are actually the musical summit of their time. So in a way they’re very similar. —Philipp Brieler
Le Nozze di Figaro returns on November 23 and runs through December 12.