Mozart's classic comic opera meets Downton Abbey at SummerFest 2015! The Count has his eye on his valet's fiancée, who happens to be his wife's chambermaid. The Countess is being pursued by Cherubino, disguised as a girl so as not to raise the Count's suspicions. Upstairs meets downstairs in this glorious romp set in the early 20th century.
|Music||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart|
|English Translation||Jeremy Sams|
|Associate Director||Sarah Young|
|Associate Scenic Designer||Christine Lee Won|
|Costume Designer||Cynthia Albert|
|Lighting Designer||Bob Steineck|
|Hair and Makeup Designer||Karen J. Gilmer|
|Chorus Master||Michaella Calzaretta|
|Stage Manager||Claire Landuyt|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Kyle Birdsall|
|Count Almaviva||Chad Armstrong|
|Don Curzio||Dustin Damonte|
Running time is 2 hours, 50 minutes including one 15-minute intermission
The Marriage of Figaro is sung in English, with English titles projected above the stage.
Reduced orchestrations by Jonathan Lyness.
While preparing for their wedding, the valet Figaro learns from the maid Susanna that their philandering employer, Count Almaviva, harbors romantic feelings towards her. At this the servant vows to outwit his master. The scheming Bartolo enters the servants’ quarters with his former housekeeper, Marcellina, who wants Figaro to marry her to cancel a debt he cannot pay. After Marcellina and Susanna trade insults, the amorous page Cherubino arrives, reveling in his infatuation with all women. He hides when the Count shows up, furious because he caught Cherubino flirting with Barbarina, the gardener’s daughter. The Count pursues Susanna but conceals himself when the gossiping music master Don Basilio approaches. The Count steps forward, however, when Basilio suggests that Cherubino has a crush on the Countess. Figaro returns with fellow servants to try to shame the Count into acquiescing to his wedding to Susanna. The Count deflects this, and decides to rid himself of Cherubino by assigning him to his regiment, and leaves Figaro to cheer up the unhappy page.
In her bedroom, the Countess laments her husband’s waning love, but plots to chasten him, encouraged by Figaro and Susanna. They will send Cherubino, disguised as Susanna, to a romantic assignation with the Count. Cherubino, smitten with the Countess, appears, and she and Susanna begin to dress the page for his fake rendezvous. While Susanna goes out to find a ribbon, the Count knocks at the door, suspicious to find it locked.
Cherubino quickly hides in a closet, and the Countess admits her husband, who, when he hears a noise, is suspicious of her story that Susanna is inside the wardrobe. He takes his wife to fetch some tools with which to force open the closet door. Meanwhile, Susanna, having observed everything from behind a screen, helps Cherubino out of a window, then takes his place in the closet. On their return, both Count and Countess are amazed to find her there. Figaro runs in to announce that the wedding is ready - then the gardener, Antonio, storms in with crushed hydrangeas from a flowerbed below the widow. Figaro pretends it was he who jumped from the window, faking a sprained ankle. Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio burst into the room waving a court summons for Figaro, which delights the Count, as this gives him an excuse to delay the wedding. The act ends in a chaos of confusion.
Susanna leads the Count on with promises of a rendezvous in the garden. He, however, grows madly jealous when he spies her conspiring with Figaro, and vows revenge. Marcellina, pressing her lawsuit, is astonished and thwarted but thrilled to discover that Figaro is in fact her long-lost natural son by Bartolo. Mother and son embrace, provoking Susanna’s anger until she too learns the truth. Finding a quiet moment, the Countess recalls her past happiness, then joins Susanna in composing a letter that invites the Count to an assignation that night. Later, during the wedding ceremony of Figaro and Susanna, the bride manages to slip the note, sealed with a hatpin, to the Count.
In the moonlit garden, Barbarina tells Figaro and Marcellina about the coming assignation between the Count and Susanna. Figaro inveighs against women and leaves, missing Susanna and the Countess, who enter dressed as each other, ready for their dual assignations. Alone, Susanna (dressed as the Countess) rhapsodizes on her love for the Count in order to make Figaro jealous. Susanna hides in time to see Cherubino enter; he tries to seduce the Countess (who is dressed as Susanna), until Almaviva chases him away.
The Count pursues this ‘Susanna’ (actually his wife) into an arbor. By now Figaro understands the joke and, joining in on the fun, makes exaggerated love to Susanna in her Countess disguise. The Count returns, seeing, or so he thinks, Figaro with his wife. Outraged, he calls everyone to witness this adultery, but now the real Countess appears and reveals the ruse. Grasping the truth at last, the Count begs her pardon. All are reunited, and so ends this “craziness of a single day” at the court of the Almavivas.
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 encountered 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.
Learn more about The Marriage of Figaro from these books, recordings, and scores available on Amazon: