I'm talking about Figaro, of course.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro performed by the Janiec Opera Company at the Brevard Music Center.
I want to write about it, but I don't know what to write ... a review? a plot description for readers who aren't familiar with it? a rant about people who say they "don't like opera" when they haven't even given it a chance?
I suppose I'll do a little bit of each.
First, a review. Not, of course, that I'm remotely qualified to review an opera. So, please understand that these are just my impressions, as A Person Who Doesn't Know Much About Opera But Loves Mozart All The Same.
THE SET: Minimal. Nothing elaborate, so it allowed for quick set-up and take-down. I read somewhere that BMC put the entire opera together in two weeks; the necessary simplicity was apparent here. Boxes were stacked haphazardly on top of one another, and certain items that represented a scene were wedged here and there. In the Countess' bedroom scene, for instance, Cherubino's jumping-window was wedged between two boxes. I suppose the boxes were effective in serving the scenes, but at the same time, they made for a strangely "modern"-looking backdrop for bewigged singers in 18th-century costumes. Set design was by Robin Vest.
THE MUSIC: Good, good, good. The music is always good. Conducted by John Greer.
THE PERFORMERS: Is that what you call them in an opera? Performers? Singers? Whatever they were, I thought most were quite good, and some were particularly fine. Andrew Cummings as Figaro was excellently cast--not only did he sound the part, but he looked the part. He WAS Figaro. Not a bad-looking guy, either (that always helps). And Lee Taylor as Susanna was endearing in her clever and canniving ways. I loved Benjamin Czarnota as the Count. Sure, his voice was great, but I just loved the fact that he was rather short and slight, physically. It made him effective as a conniving little weenie of a count, next to Cumming's tall, strapping, sexy Figaro. Perhaps my favorite "character" was Andrea Hill as Cherubino. Anyone familiar with this opera knows that Cherubino is such a wonderful character anyway; I would imagine that any soprano would jump at the chance to play this role. I know I would, if I could remotely carry a tune. But anyway, Hill did an excellent job as Cherubino; I found myself forgetting that she was female and actually believing that she was an adolescent boy. The only disappointment was Steven Kirby as Don Bartolo. Although he "loosened up" as the opera progressed, he seemed very stiff in the beginning, and I felt that that took away from his overall performance.
COMPLAINTS: The two intermissions. I guess this is par for the course at operas or something. I don't know. This is the fourth opera I've been to, and I've enjoyed them all so much that I never remember if I was annoyed by the length or the intermissions. At the opera this weekend, I would be so into the performance ... and then the curtain would close for the intermission. I'd blink my way out of operatic dreamland, thinking, "What? We have to take ANOTHER break?"
I thought one of my complaints would be the fact that the entire thing was done in English. The original is in Italian, and the CD of arias I've memorized in the car are all in Italian. And English often sounds so ugly next to Italian ... but really, it wasn't bad. I still think I would have preferred the Italian, but I can honestly say that the "English" aspect did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the opera.
Well, this has been a really long post, and I actually have a lot of work to do today, so I'm going to hold off on the plot description and the rant. (Hmm, I'm hearing a collective sigh of relief out there ...)
Seriously, y'all, I won't rant, but if you think you don't like opera, try giving at least The Marriage of Figaro a chance. Opera ain't all about 400-pound women with horned helmets and spears, bellowing at the tops of their lungs (sorry, Wagnerians). And Figaro is one of the most accessible operas out there--interesting storyline, fun (and funny) characters, good love story, catchy tunes, etc.
Sooo ... nurture the opera-lover in you that's waiting to come out. Go rent Amadeus. Pick up a recording of arias or duets from The Marriage of Figaro (or Le Nozze di Figaro) or other Mozart opera. Sing a high note or two in the shower. Do something to extend an appreciation for opera. 'Cause it's not appreciated nearly enough these days.