Guest post by SeaWorld Mommy
There’s a reason TV daytime dramas are called soap operas. Ever see the one with a philandering Count whose wife eventually forgives him (after a little payback)? And isn’t that show with a valet whose fiancé is the object of the Count’s dalliance; even if it is the Count’s legal “right” to take his servant’s wife on her wedding night? (Go ahead and say “ewww” at this point.) Oh… and isn’t there a young man crushing on one of his dream girls (with whom he has NO chance as she’s the Count’s wife—so dream on)? No? Not a daytime drama? While these storylines sure seem like the thing of which daytime Emmys are made, it’s actually a brief rundown of the top plot points of The Marriage of Figaro on stage this weekend at the Bob Carr Auditorium.
Based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais, with music composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Italian lyrics by Lorenzo Da Ponte, The Marriage of Figaro has been hailed Mozart’s most “perfectly” written opera. Don’t let the Italian lyrics (ahem, libretto) scare you.
English subtitles can be seen above the action if you happen to get lost. It’s really not critical, though, as it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Count Almaviva has a wandering eye, or that Figaro’s bride-to-be, maid Susanna, has a little something up her sleeve with the elegant but not-to-be-toyed-with Countess Rosina. You may get a little flummoxed by the Cherubino character who is, as written, a young man, but who is played, traditionally, by a woman. (At one point the actress who’s playing a man dresses up like a woman in a disguise. So… just think RuPaul in reverse, and go with it.)
In a sub-plot, Figaro is at odds with Marcellina who wants him to marry HER to pay off a debt. She is none too pleased the Marriage of Figaro is going on as planned. Bartolo, meanwhile, is happy with any device that screws with Figaro, as Figaro was instrumental in helping the Count and Countess get together in the first place and… hello!… he had his eye on Rosina himself! Spoiler alert: We find out later that Marcellina is actually Figaro’s mom, and Bartolo is his dad. (Yeah, I’m thinking Oedipus right now, too.)
There’s “much ado about nothing” throughout the four acts as characters get in and out of disguise to teach one another lessons, in this mad, mad day. (I couldn’t help but see the parallels of plotters turning on one another when they think they see a betrayal when they don’t, as in Shakespeare’s famous play.) In the end forgiveness prevails, led by the Countess who, while having every right to present a cold shoulder to her husband ad infinitum, belts out a glorious ode to reunification and the count, for once contrite, begs—and is granted—her forgiveness.
As one would expect, the orchestration corrals the scenes to their assigned emotional pen. The strings, however, do much of the heavy lifting and are almost another character with their crisp, playful riffs (nee ostinato, for the non-bourgeois like myself). They almost musically create a cartooned character in one’s mind, twirling the laughable mustache at appropriate moments. (Did I really see the actors do a chest bump at one time, or did I only imagine it with the playful bounce of the bassoon?!)
Bravo to the Orlando Philharmonic for this beautiful production! Seasoned opera lovers and complete newbies like myself will find themselves smiling from the first downbeat to the last.