|Figaro! Figaro? Feeegaro.
How many times have we heard this... the single, most notorious line in opera? And yet, I ask you... how many times did you even give a sh _ _ about it?
The inexcusable crime of a lackluster Figaro is due entirely to the new breed of opera vocalists. Singers who spends years in conservatories perfecting vocal technique while sacrificing a liberal and imaginative education. Don't be fooled by how svelte this new breed looks, that's due to an image-conscious society and has little to do with interpretative skills. This new generation has one big thing going -- great sounds, better than in any other generation (though pundits note an impersonal evenness).
Back to the point. Who, then, was the ultimate Figaro?
John Charles Thomas.
You can still order a compact disc compilation of some of his works. You will not be thrilled with the incredibly low quality of the recorded sound; you may not even swoon to the sound of his voice; but... you will hear the most famous piece in opera in an entirely new light. You will hear the actor's mind speaking clearly through the singer's voice. You will mentally visualize an entire cast of Sevillians calling to this Johannes Factotum, each in their own voice, each with their own needs.
This, to me, symbolizes the ideal Figaro. Sure, there'll always be another great voice at the Met or City Opera who can sing the hell out of the notes... but would you trust that man to help you undertake a covert sexual liaison?
click here for an MP3 file of this aria
John Charles Thomas - Prima Voce recording at Amazon.com
That's my point.