Not so sure about opera? Then Figaro Redux is for you, in our slightly shorter, edgier modern-dress version of The Marriage of Figaro. You'll follow the cast around the building (nursing a cocktail, if you like!), with each act set in a different space in the spectacular Twentieth Century Club. This one is all about sex and class: it was banned when first written, and later launched the French Revolution. And it is just as radical and subversive and entertaining today as it was back then!
Running time: approximately 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
Reduced orchestrations by Kenneth Roberts of Small Scores.
|Music||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart|
|English Translation||Jeremy Sams|
|Production by||Jonathan Eaton|
|Costume Designer||Oran Wongpandid|
|Lighting Designer||Madeleine Steineck|
|Supervising Stage Manager||Claire Landuyt|
|Stage Managers||Alaina Bartkowiak|
|Count Almaviva||Jesse Enderle|
|Rosina||Ji Eun Park|
|Marcellina||Mary Beth Sederburg|
|Don Curzio||Patrick Shelton|
While preparing for their wedding, the valet Figaro learns from the maid Susanna that their philandering employer, Count Almaviva, has taken a liking to her. The scheming Bartolo appears with his former housekeeper, Marcellina. He insists that Figaro marry her. Figaro had once borrowed money from her and had promised so much if he should default on the debt which he has. The page Cherubino enters boasting of his infatuation with all womankind. When the Count unexpectedly enters the room, Cherubino hides, frightened, since the Count has caught him flirting with Barbarina, the gardener's daughter. The Count presses his suit with Susanna but hides behind a chair when the dancing master Don Basilio bursts in, only to reveal himself the next moment when Basilio suggests that Cherubino has been making advances to his wife, the Countess Rosina. Figaro, who has been on duty, returns with some of the servants. They all praise the Count who has promised to forego his droit du seigneur, that is, a master's right to take a manservant's place on his wedding night. Suddenly inspired, Almaviva decides to eliminate the threat Cherubino poses by sending him off to a regiment in Seville, then leaves Figaro and Susanna to console the unhappy page.
In her bedroom the Countess bemoans her husband's waning interest and plots to chasten him. She is encouraged by Susanna and Figaro. They will send Cherubino, disguised as Susanna, to a tryst with him. When Cherubino appears, Susanna and the Countess begin to dress him for his rendezvous. However, at the moment that Susanna goes off to fetch a ribbon, the Count, checking on his wife's activities, attempts to burst into her room but finds the door locked. Cherubino hides in the closet, as the Countess admits the Count. However when there is a sound in the wardrobe, the Count becomes suspicious even though the Countess assures him that it is only Susanna. When she refuses to open the closet door, the Count rushes off to find tools with which to pry it open.
Susanna, having witnessed everything from behind a screen, helps Cherubino to escape through a window and takes his place in the closet. Both Count and Countess are amazed to find her there. Still, the matter seems settled until the gardener, Antonio, storms in with a handful of trampled hydrangeas from the flower bed beneath the Countess' window. At that moment Figaro appears to announce that preparations for his marriage are complete. He pretends that it was he who jumped out the window. He fakes a sprained ankle. To complicate the matter, Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio force their way into the Countess' boudoir waving a court summons for Figaro—a delight for the Count, since it gives him an excuse to delay the wedding. The act ends in utter confusion.
Susanna entices the Count with promises of a rendezvous in the garden. However, he becomes suspicious when he sees her talking at some length with Figaro. He determines on revenge. Marcellina is astonished to find that Figaro is her long lost son by Bartolo. Mother and son embrace, provoking Susanna's anger until she learns the truth. In a moment of quiet the Countess recalls her days of happiness, then joins Susanna in composing a letter inviting the Count to the garden that night. Later, during the wedding ceremony, Susanna manages to slip the note to the Count sealed with a hatpin. Following instructions in the note, the Count gives the pin to Barbarina to return to Susanna as a token that he has agreed to the meeting.
In the garden, Barbarina, after failing to find the pin she has dropped along the way, tells Figaro and Marcellina about the proposed rendezvous between the Count and Susanna. After Figaro has inveighed against the fickleness of women, he leaves at the very moment Susanna and the Countess appear in disguise ( the Countess as Susanna and Susanna as the Countess).
In an aside Susanna rhapsodizes over her love for Figaro, but he, overhearing what she says, thinks she is speaking of the Count. Susanna hides just as Cherubino begins to make overtures to the Countess, now disguised in Susanna's dress, but Almaviva chases him away and sequesters his wife whom he believes to be Susanna in an arbor where he hopes to renew his pursuit. By now Figaro has penetrated the intrigue, and joining in the fun, makes exaggerated overtures to the supposed Countess. When the Count returns and sees Figaro with his supposed wife, he is enraged and calls on everyone to witness her supposed infidelity. At that very moment the Countess appears and reveals the ruse. A repentant Almaviva begs his pardon, all are reunited, and so ends "the mad day."
Meet the Composer
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
27 January 1756–5 December 1791
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era.
Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.
He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence on subsequent Western art music is profound; Ludwig van Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."
In January 1781, Mozart's opera Idomeneo premiered with "considerable success" in Munich. The following March, Mozart was summoned to Vienna, where his employer, Archbishop Colloredo, was attending the celebrations for the accession of Joseph II to the Austrian throne. Fresh from the adulation he had earned in Munich, Mozart was offended when Colloredo treated him as a mere servant and particularly when the archbishop forbade him to perform before the Emperor at Countess Thun's for a fee equal to half of his yearly Salzburg salary. The resulting quarrel came to a head in May: Mozart attempted to resign and was refused. The following month, permission was granted but in a grossly insulting way: the composer was dismissed literally "with a kick in the arse", administered by the archbishop's steward, Count Arco. Mozart decided to settle in Vienna as a freelance performer and composer.
Mozart's new career in Vienna began well. He performed often as a pianist, notably in a competition before the Emperor with Muzio Clementi on 24 December 1781, and he soon "had established himself as the finest keyboard player in Vienna". He also prospered as a composer, and in 1782 completed the opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail ("The Abduction from the Seraglio"), which premiered on 16 July 1782 and achieved a huge success. The work was soon being performed "throughout German-speaking Europe", and fully established Mozart's reputation as a composer.
Despite the great success of Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Mozart did little operatic writing for the next four years, producing only two unfinished works and the one-act Der Schauspieldirektor. He focused instead on his career as a piano soloist and writer of concertos. Around the end of 1785, Mozart moved away from keyboard writing and began his famous operatic collaboration with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. 1786 saw the successful premiere of The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna. Its reception in Prague later in the year was even warmer, and this led to a second collaboration with Da Ponte: the opera Don Giovanni, which premiered in October 1787 to acclaim in Prague, but less success in Vienna in 1788. The two are among Mozart's most important works and are mainstays of the operatic repertoire today, though at their premieres their musical complexity caused difficulty for both listeners and performers. These developments were not witnessed by Mozart's father, who had died on 28 May 1787.
Lorenzo Da Ponte
10 March 1749–17 August 1838
Lorenzo DaPonte was a Venetian opera librettist and poet. He wrote the librettos for 28 operas by 11 composers, including three of Mozart's greatest operas, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and Così fan tutte.
1781 he believed (falsely) that he had an invitation from his friend Caterino Mazzolà, the poet of the Saxon court, to take up a post at Dresden, only to be disabused when he arrived there. Mazzolà however offered him work at the theatre translating libretti and recommended that he seek to develop writing skills. He also gave him a letter of introduction to the composer Antonio Salieri.
With the help of Salieri, Da Ponte applied for and obtained the post of librettist to the Italian Theatre in Vienna. Here he also found a patron in the banker Raimund Wetzlar von Plankenstern, benefactor of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As court librettist in Vienna, he collaborated with Mozart, Salieri and Vicente Martín y Soler. Da Ponte wrote the libretti for Mozart's most popular Italian operas, The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and Così fan tutte (1790), and Soler's Una cosa rara. All of Da Ponte's works were adaptations of pre-existing plots, as was common among librettists of the time, with the exceptions of L'arbore di Diana with Soler, and Così fan tutte, which he began with Salieri, but completed with Mozart. However the quality of his elaboration gave them new life.
With the death of Austrian Emperor Joseph II in 1790, Da Ponte lost his patron. He was formally dismissed from the Imperial Service in 1791, due to intrigues, receiving no support from the new Emperor, Leopold. He could not return to Venice, from which he had been banished until the end of 1794. In 1792 Da Ponte travelled via Prague to London, accompanied by his companion Nancy Grahl (with whom he eventually had four children); in 1803 he became librettist at the King's Theatre, London. He remained based in London undertaking various theatrical and publishing activities until 1805, when debt and bankruptcy caused him to flee to the United States in 1805 with Grahl and his children.
In the United States, Da Ponte settled in New York first, then Sunbury, Pennsylvania, where he briefly ran a grocery store and gave private Italian lessons. He returned to New York to open a bookstore. He became friends with Clement Clarke Moore, and, through him, gained an appointment as the first professor of Italian literature at Columbia College. He was the first Roman Catholic priest to be appointed to the faculty, and he was also the first to have been born a Jew. In New York he introduced opera and produced a performance of Don Giovanni (1825). He also introduced Gioachino Rossini's music in the U.S., through a concert tour with his niece Giulia Da Ponte.
In 1828, at the age of 79, Lorenzo Da Ponte became a naturalized U.S. citizen. In 1833, at the age of eighty-four, he founded an opera house in the United States, the New York Opera Company. Owing to his lack of business acumen, however, it lasted only two seasons before the company had to be disbanded and the theater sold to pay the company's debts. It was, however, the predecessor of the New York Academy of Music and of the New York Metropolitan Opera.
Lorenzo Da Ponte died in 1838 in New York; an enormous funeral ceremony was held in New York's old St. Patrick's Cathedral on Mulberry Street. Some sources state that Da Ponte is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, but that cemetery did not exist before 1848. Other sources say Da Ponte was buried in lower Manhattan. Calvary Cemetery does contain a stone marker to serve as a memorial to Da Ponte.
The Mad Day
Great works of music are not necessarily groundbreakers. Often they are those that summarize and put the final stamp on a period in musical history and open the way to others who seek new avenues of expression. Certainly, The Marriage of Figaro is such a work. Thanks to the inspiration of Lorenzo Da Ponte in transforming the controversial text of Beaumarchais' revolutionary play (its alternate title is The Mad Day) into a humorous yet profound portrayal of humankind, and to Mozart's brilliant score, opera buffa with its stock characters became little by little a thing of the past, and the way was open to treating comic situations on the operatic stage with greater sympathy and a greater sense of reality. In short, precisely the kind of opera which La Roche in Capriccio advocates.
The Marriage of Figaro was first presented at the Burgtheater in Vienna on May 1, 1786. The opera was the first of three collaborations between Mozart and Da Ponte, the subsequent works being Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte. It was a moderate artistic success (in spite of a cabal which occasionally disturbed the performance) but also a financial one for Mozart, who was paid 450 florins for the opera—three times his annual salary when employed as court musician in Salzburg. Later, it was rapturously received in Prague and found its way quickly into the rarified pantheon of "great operas."
What distinguishes The Marriage of Figaro from the tradition of opera buffa is that it combines elegance and subtlety with the more earthly elements of good theater. The delineation of character (pace Da Ponte) is vivid and more revealing than had been encounter before in opera buffa. Moreover, it goes without saying, this masterly conceived libretto is clothed in music enhancing Da Ponte's vision.
Mozart lovers need no instruction in The Marriage of Figaro. Still, I would like to share my enthusiasm for several passages:
First, the spectacular and unique finale of the second act, which runs for something like thirty minutes beginning with the Count's attempt to open the Countess' locked closet. Secondly, the recognition sextet in the third act, where Figaro's parentage is established. Next, the Countess' exquisite lament in the third act, beginning with "Where are the golden moments?" And, finally, the ravishing final moments of the fourth act where the Count begs the Countess' pardon. However, one caution. It is clear that Almaviva is a philanderer. Is his repentance sincere? I doubt it and would be more pleased if at the same time he would give a wink to the audience. Such a gesture would confirm the libertinage he has displayed throughout the opera.