An Afternoon at the Opera: The Marriage of Figaro

To go to the Opera is one of the most pleasurable things you can experience in life: the promise of drama, exceptional music, memorable interpretations, all contribute for a cathartic experience. And it’s live–not a blockbuster movie filled with special effects and CGI, but nonetheless highly effective in appealing to your emotions. You can forget about your own problems for a few hours watching the life lessons the characters themselves learn on stage. And if you are lucky to be around Toronto you still can go watch Le Nozze di Figaro, or The Marriage of Figaro, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed at the Canadian Opera Company (but hurry, only two performances left!)

Trailer | Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro

Mozart is a master in striking a chord with his audience, specially in what regards the human affections. The opera was an instant success after its debut in 1786 (almost 240 years ago!). It was based on the infamous play The Follies of a Day; or, The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais that had been written and banned two years before in pre-revolutionary Paris. Most of its success is attributed to the depiction of a rebellious servant standing up to his master and making evident the corruption of aristocracy. But it’s more than that. It was one of the first operas to depart from the mythical, religious or historical characters and depict the ordinary people with all their inner feelings and complex motivations.

The Marriage of Figaro: “Se vuol ballare” | Luca Pisaroni

I have found this anecdote on Gustav Kobbé‘s The Complete Opera Book, which reminded me immediately that it had also been rendered on the big screen at the highly acclaimed movie Amadeus:

“Le Nozze di Figaro” was composed by Mozart by command of Emperor Joseph II., of Austria. After congratulating the composer at the end of the first performance, the Emperor said to him: “You must admit, however, my dear Mozart, that there are a great many notes in your score.” “Not one too many, Sire,” was Mozart’s reply.

The Complete Opera Book by Gustav Kobbé
“Too many notes” scene from Amadeus

All the action happens in one hectic day when it was supposed to take place the marriage of Figaro (a valet to Count Almaviva) to Susanna (the personal maid to the Countess Almaviva). It is a comedy alright, with everything that is expected from it: mistaken identities, lovers jumping from windows, concealing and spying, innumerable plot twists, deceitfulness and cheating, etc. But it is also punctuated by tender and emotional moments, like the duet sung by Susanna and the Countess, the “letter duet”. This song was used in the movie The Shawshank Redemption as a commentary on hope and freedom, a sweet respite among all the horrors of that prison.

The Shawshank Redemption Mozart Opera Scene

The Marriage of Figaro is a sequel to The Barber of Seville which Gioachino Rossini set to music. “In Rossini’s opera it is Figaro, at the time a barber in Seville, who plays the go-between for Count Almaviva and his beloved RosinaDr. Bartolo’s pretty ward.” I was fortunate enough to have watched that twelve years ago on a wonderful production at the Sydney Opera House. I am also glad to have watched them in the correct order. As always, looking forward for the next opera to watch!


2 Responses to “An Afternoon at the Opera: The Marriage of Figaro”

  1. Graziela Avatar

    Definitivamente voce eh meu amigo mais culto!!! 🙂

    1. Robson Avatar

      Obrigado, querida! Lembra que nós tivemos uma noite na ópera juntos?! Fomos assistir “A Flauta Mágica”, também de Mozart… adoro esta ópera, cheia de misticismo, simbolismo, rituais e é claro, magia.

      Amo esta interpretação da ária da Rainha da Noite:

      The Magic Flute – Queen of the Night aria (Mozart; Diana Damrau, The Royal Opera)