August 1, 2021

In Aix-en-Provence, the “Marriage of Figaro” between farce and jubilation

The audience laughed a lot. At least during the first two acts of Marriage of Figaro that Lotte de Beer staged at the Théâtre de l’Archevêché for the opening of the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Rarely has Mozart’s masterpiece been so devoid of sentimental finality to highlight its subtitle: “La folle jour”. After all these months muzzled by the pandemic and confinement, there is something jubilant about this scenic geyser, despite too many passages where the parody borders on caricature, which itself borders on the big farce, which gets down to the glue with a kitsch assumed – and why not? We must recognize in the Dutch director a real sense of the stage as in this opening to the proscenium, an accelerated parade of characters in commedia dell’arte version, which immediately gives a tone, a rhythm and a fantasy.

Two rooms of the house, the bedroom and the living room, caged in boxes equipped with all-purpose doors (hinged, revolving, closed, open, mimetic, we are told, of the female body), a flight of steps, in the center a laundry room with two huge machines. Susanna will spend her time sorting, washing, ironing – the iron will mark on the laundry the burning desire of Cherubino, while the Count will fantasize on an ironing board, which he spanks and rides, the rape of Susanna. A libidinous and shrewd householder, ideal prey for #metoo, a Figaro with the old-fashioned look of a flamenco dancer, a depressed countess who compensates for marital disavowal with fitness and anxiolytics, an openly bisexual Cherubino (Lotte de Beer grew in its entrenchments the vocal travesty which consists in making a woman sing the role of a young man), a Susanna totally stung à la Almodovar: each one leaves his role to regain an archetype and, therefore, embody a universality.

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But two not insignificant pitfalls lie in wait for this production: the plethora of gags leaves the music in the background and we see the hits – the “Se vuol ballare” of Figaro, the “Porgi amor” of the Countess, the “Non so più cosa son “by Cherubino – without the slightest emotion clinging to it. On the contrary, the dismay of the abandoned woman, seeking suicide by all means, triggers a succession of grand-guignolesque situations which will end up shattering, in the literal sense, the walls of the room. Ditto for Cherubino, whose recurring priapism, refractory to wearing clothing – a stage game a little long and supported – will triumph in the appearance of phallus characters, “testiculating” on their assy feet while giant inflatable dolls denounce the codes. pornography. The end of Act II will see the wedding cake entangle the belligerents in a confusion of genres that gives pride of place to transvestites, underworld creatures and look-alikes of pop culture.

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