In 60 years of seeing and listening to comic operas in many different forms, I cannot recall a performance that gave me more pleasure or came closer to perfection. In almost every aspect, this production is beyond flawless: in fact, inspirational is the term that most aptly applies. First and foremost, the director Otto Schlenk is at his incomparable best in milking this comedy for all it is worth, surpassing even his brilliant work in Rosenkavalier. Never have my wife or I laughed more during a stage performance. The gestures, the timing, the composition ------- all were beautifully calculated to tickle our sense of humour in a sly and intelligent manner. No buffoonery or clumsy contrivances here, but a seamless choreography of credible absurdity and wit. How I would love to see this whole team take on more of the operatic repertoire of this genre, starting perhaps with The Barber of Seville. And teamwork was the very essence of this production. From John del Carlos' fluent bumbling, through Mariusj Kwiecien's outrageous double-crossing and Anna Netrebko's swinging between innocent virgin and bombastic vixen, this is a cast made in heaven, and the acting and singing could not be bettered. Throw in James Levine at his most genial, camerawork that captures the hilarious action with perfect timing and precision, photographic quality that on this DVD is simply ravishing, and sound that fills the space with perfect pitch, and you have what must be the definitive performance of this delightful opera. That leaves Mathew Polenzani who does good work with a pleasant personna and a bright ringing heroic tenor voice, but whose bel canto only really shines in the last act, and does not match the beautiful tone that the great Italians of the past ( Gigli, Schipa, Tagliavini) brought to the role. There are no extras beyond the usual back-scratching ingratiating interviews ( this one conducted by Susan Graham) that have become an irritating fixture of the Met HD Telecasts. But these are minor weaknesses in what is a glorious experience. We are unlikely to see it surpassed.