by Ronald Blum
NEW YORK — Normalcy returned to the Metropolitan Opera with a charming second-night revival of Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro," one night after a new production of Puccini's "Tosca" left a significant segment of the audience booing one of the company's biggest failures in decades.
Jonathan Miller's 1998 staging of "Figaro" is handsome, intelligent and focused — the opposite of Luc Bondy's tacky "Tosca" production that veered from dull to dumb.
Of chief interest Tuesday night were soprano Danielle de Niese's first Susanna at the Met and the company debuts of soprano Emma Bell as the Countess and conductor Dan Ettinger. There were only cheers at the end.
De Niese made her company debut in the far smaller role of Barbarina when this production premiered. She is now a rising star and was charming as Susanna, with an expressive face and a soaring sweet voice.
She toned down the hamming that Cecilia Bartoli used effectively in the original cast. De Niese even seemed a bit interested in the Count's advances, making goo-goo eyes, adding complexity to the role.
Bell seemed a bit nervous during her opening "Porgi Amor (Grant Love)" in the second act, and her voice took on a harsh tone during some loud, exposed notes. She was far more comfortable, relaxed and effective one act later in a touching "Dove sono (Where are the golden moments)?"
John Relyea was in fine voice as a somewhat restrained Figaro, the center of all the goings-on in the tumultuous Almaviva household. Bo Skovhus, returning to a role he last sang at the Met a decade ago, was a suave Count and mostly sang well, although there was some strain in his "Vedro mentr'io sospiro (Shall I see, while I suffer)" in the third act.
Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard sang the trousers role Cherubino at the Met for the first time and brought energy and a voice filled of color.
Rounding out the fine ensemble were Wendy White (Marcellina), Maurizio Muraro (Bartolo), Philip Langridge (Basilio), Ashley Emerson (Barbarina) and Tony Stevenson (Curzio).
Ettinger, music director of the Israel Symphony Orchestra and Mannheim's National Theater in Germany, led an elegant account, not as frothy as James Levine's but nonetheless effective.