Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), a comic opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a libretto by Lorenzo DaPonte, based on the 1784 comedy La folle journee, ou le Mariage de Figaro by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais.
Thursday November 18, 2021 at the College Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, Ohio
Director: Robin Guarino
Conductor: Brian McCann
Scenic Design: Tom Umfrid
Costume Design: Meredith Buckley
John Siarris – Figaro
Emma Marhefka – Susanna
Ryan Wolfe – Count
Heidi Miller – Countess
Georgia Jacobson – Cherubino
Kendra Beasley – Marcellina
Atticus Rego – Bartolo
Arieh Sacke – Basilio/Curzio
Su Hyeon Park – Barbarina
Erik Nordstrom – Antonio
Beaumarchais’s play La Folle Journée, ou Le Mariage de Figaro was at first banned in Vienna because of its subject matter, but Mozart managed to get official approval for his operatic version, which was given by the Emperor, Joseph II, before any music was written for it. And that was Vienna, mind you, in Paris that subject matter would have earned the creators a few years of forced labor.
The opera premiered in Vienna on May 1, 1786, with Mozart conducting. The production received eight more performances, which, for the time, was a nice long run. The Emperor was concerned by the length of the performance, and directed his aides to “…prevent the excessive duration of operas…that no piece be repeated…therefore cause some posters to this effect to be printed.”
In a brilliant bit of marketing, Mozart and Da Ponte posted a reply to the Emperor’s edict: “… the opera will not be one of the shortest to have appeared on our stage…in our desire to offer as it were a new kind of spectacle to a public of so refined a taste and understanding.” Well, Mozart and Da Ponte were right: it is not one of the shortest ever, clocking in at well over three hours even with the cutting of a couple of Act IV arias. The opera was then produced in Prague in December 1786. Uncut.
The plot deals with the impending marriage of Figaro (John Siarris) and Susanna (Emma Marhefka) and the efforts made by Count Almaviva (Ryan Wolfe) to thwart their wedding until his Excellency has exercised the ancient Droit du Seigneur, a prerogative of a master to bed any female servant of his choosing before her wedding night.
As regards beds, the philandering Count has been notably absent from that of his wife, Countess Almaviva (Heidi Miller), while the flirtatious page boy Cherubino (Georgia Jacobson) yearns to occupy his master’s place next to the Countess, but eventually settles for the much closer to his age Barbarina (Su Hyeon Park), the niece of the perpetually inebriated Antonio, the castle’s gardener (the very funny Erik Nordstrom). Then there is the older couple of Dr. Bartolo (Atticus Rego) and Marcellina (Kendra Beasley) who turn out to be more closely related to Figaro than anyone could have imagined.
At the end of the final act in which mistaken identities under the cover of night threaten to wreck the day’s festivities, the Count meets his comeuppance and the ten reconciled principal characters sing:
“All of us will be happy now that this day filled with torments and willful madness ends with love, contentment and joy. Spouses and friends: let us go to the ball and play and set fireworks and run to celebrate to the tune of a joyful march!”
The charming CCM production is blessed with imaginative stage direction by Robin Guarino, an elegantly chameleonic set by Tom Umfrid, pretty costumes by CCM design student Meredith Buckley, and the conducting of the gifted young student Brian McCann – a last minute replacement to lead the very nice student orchestra.
And then, of course, there is the cast of ten principals each filled with immense promise as singing actors, among whom the young lyric soprano Emma Marhefka shines both vocally and dramatically in the central role of Susanna, a part which Mozart conceived for the English soprano Nancy Storace as the heart and soul of the opera, which here Ms. Marhefka is hands down.
There are three more performances this weekend.
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