JUNE 11,-26 2016
The Marriage of Figaro has entertained audiences for well over 200 years. Mozart’s melodic inventiveness is limitless, the comedy is excellent and the strong emotions in the opera are still painfully recognizable. From the energetic overture to the gripping finale, The Marriage of Figaro draws a broad picture of human desire: from Cherubino’s naïve enthusiasm via Count Almaviva’s raw lust to the Countess’s painful resignation and forgiveness.
Figaro is the same character as the one we meet in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (first performed 30 years after The Marriage of Figaro). Both are based on the plays by Pierre Beaumarchais. In Mozart’s opera, the cunning barber has fallen in love with Susanna and wants to marry her. But like everything else in Figaro’s life, the situation is fraught with complications. When Count Almaviva invokes his right to spend a last night with the young and beautiful bride, the bridegroom sees an opportunity to teach his master a lesson. The result is a bewildering assortment of complications, dangers, seductions and disguises.
Thaddeus Strassberger’s production was a success with both audiences and critics when it premiered in January 2010, and again in 2013. The action and costumes are set against the backdrop of an 18th century Spanish estate, with bustling, fairytale sets.
Once again we present an extremely strong cast, including Nicole Heaston, who charmed audiences in Alcina in spring 2014. “When she sings, the energy swirls around her and is flung out again across the audience in waves of sensuality and sorrow,” wrote the Morgenbladet critic at the time. As the heartsick Countess, she meets Audun Iversen in the role of the Count. We will also hear from Kari Ulfsnes Kleiven, Yngve Søberg and Ingeborg Gillebo.
Voice of the revolution
The Marriage of Figaro was composed just two years after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. The relationship between master and servant in the opera was political dynamite at the time. The 1784 Pierre Beaumarchais drama La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro, on which the opera is based, was initially banned in Vienna. Placing nobleman and servant on an equal footing – even suggesting that a servant might be better than his master – was interpreted as a sharp criticism of the aristocracy. Lorenzo da Ponte, who wrote the libretto, thus had to dampen the political overtones. For example, Figaro’s lengthy monologue criticizing the hereditary rights of the upper class became a story about unfaithful women. This tension between master and servant is made plain in Strassberger’s production. The revolution and revolt are coming.
Original title Le nozze di Figaro
Music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto Lorenzo da Ponte
Conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini
Direction Thaddeus Strassberger
Set design and costumes Kevin Knight
Lighting design Bruno Poet
Figaro Yngve Søberg
Susanna Kari Ulfsnes Kleiven
Countess Almaviva Nicole Heaston
Count Almaviva Audun Iversen
Cherubino Ingeborg Gillebo, Angelica Voje
Marcellina Ingebjørg Kosmo
Bartolo Ketil Hugaas
Basilio Helge Rønning
Don Curzio Petter W. Moen
Antonio Øystein Skre
Barbarina Vigdis Unsgård
Household Servants Ingeborg Barstad, Désirée Baraula
The Norwegian National Opera Chorus, The Norwegian National Opera Orchestra / Performed in Italian with Norwegian and English subtitles / Free introduction one hour before the performance
Characters in Le nozze di Figaro
The head of a large feudal estate called Aguas Frescas. He «must be played with a great nobility, as well as charm and informality. His complete lack of any moral fiber should not make him any less a ‘perfect gentleman’ as far as his manners are concerned. In the bad old days it was by no means unusual for our betters to be very irresponsible when it came to adventures with young women. This role is perhaps more difficult to play today, as he must perform actions with which the audience can certainly never identify.» *
His wife. Well-known from the play and opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia by the given name, Rosina, her fun-loving youth has given way to heartbreak in a marriage that is devoid of love and affection. «A prey to conflicting emotions, she must be very restrained in showing her feelings, and keep her anger well under control: above all else, her charmand innocence must be clear to the public. It is certainly one of the most difficult roles in the play.»*
The Count’s faithful servant, and ultimately somehow, his competition. Previously in his role as the famous Barber, he was beholden to no one, but now is solely in the employ of the Count. The Count’s heartless pursuit of Susanna requires that Figaro conspire against his master. «It is impossible to over-emphasis how important it is for anyone playing this part to immerse himself absolutely in the character. If her were to see in it anything other than common sense, leavened with a sense of humor and a quick wit, or, worse be tempted to overplay it in any way, he would coarsen a role that has been described as a challenge to the talents of any actor capable of grasping its many subtleties and rising to its overall demands.»
Maid to the Countess. She is a «clever and entertaining young woman, always laughing, but without the irreverence of the traditional cheeky maid in French comedy.»*
A member of the household, she formerly performed the duties now assumed by Susanna. She has been «demoted’ to the role of Governess for the Countand Countess twin daughters. She «is an intelligent woman, emotional by nature, but chastened by experience and her earlier mistakes.»*
A lawyer from Seville, who once was in love with Rosina, who is now the Countess Almaviva. Still angry at having lost his young lover, he helps Marcellina, his former mistress, attempt to win Figaro for her as a husband. The scandal is revealed and they discover that Figaro is their son.
A page in the Count’s household. A young teen, he is beginning to feel sexual stirrings; he is infatuated with many of the females on the estate, including the Countess, Susanna, Barbarina and even Marcellina.
The Count’s Music Master. He has travelled the world, but in his role in the stifling household, he has intimate access to many people and acts as a court gossip monger.
The chief gardener. He is also Susanna’s uncle as well as Barbarina’s father. «He should only be mildly drunk, and by the end, we should be barely aware of it.»
The Notary of the district. However, in this role he is generally ineffective, failing to understand the cases that are put before him as well as the events that have taken place during the day.
Antonio’s youngest daughter, barely a teenager. Already at her tender age, she is caught in the net of the men around her, and ably maneuvers around them to her advantage.
The large household requires dozens of servants to support the family. Grooms, huntsmen, laundrymaids, chambermaids, housekeepers, cooks, scullery, musicians, entertainers, footman and pages work ceaselessly to provide comfort and pleasure to the Almaviva’s.
An even larger number of serfs toil in the land, harvesting grapes, making wine, cultivating all sorts of agriculture and livestock, both for consumption of the family, and for selling at a profit for the benefit of Almaviva himself.
Figaro well known throughout the region as the “Barber of Seville” and his young bride, Susanna, are to marry today. He is now the valet of Count Almaviva, and she the maid of his wife, Countess Rosina, and they are senior members of a sizable household staff. Susanna tells Figaro that the count has been trying to seduce her. Figaro, hurt and angered, plots to teach the Count a lesson. Dr. Bartolo arrives with his former servant and duenna of the Almaviva’s children, Marcellina. She is determined to be repaid an old loan made to Figaro. According to the contract Figaro must either repay her or else marry her. Marcellina accidentally confronts her younger rival Susanna and is further incensed. Interrupting Susanna’s busyday, the young page Cherubino enters. He wants Susanna to plead on his behalf with the Countessto reinstate him in the Count’s good graces—theCount has banished him after finding him with the gardener Antonio’s daughter, Barbarina. They hear the Count approaching, and Cherubino hides. The Countattempts to arrange a rendezvous with Susanna,and he, too, hides when Don Basilio, the music master at Aguas Frescas, arrives. As Basilio gossips with Susanna about Cherubino’s infatuation onthe Countess, the jealous Count reveals himself. Ashe tells how he found Cherubino with Barbarina, he discovers Cherubino in yet another compromising situation. Figaro has gathered the peasants from the estate to hail the Count’s decision to abolish his ancient right to deflower his female servants on the night of their wedding; he enters and begsthe Count to marry him to Susanna immediately.Using Cherubino as a distraction, the Count avoidsan instant wedding by instead ordering the young page to join his personal regiment in the army and summarily dismisses the peasants. Figaro paints a vivid portrait of how the gallant Cherubino’s life is soon to change.
The Countess is heartbroken by her husband’srepeated infidelities. As Susanna dresses the Countess for the day, Figaro arrives to update the ladies on his scheme. He has sent the Count an anonymous note telling him that the Countess is expecting a lover while he is out hunting. Figaro hopes to keep the Count embroiled in this ruse to deflect his attention from Marcellina’s troublesome claim. Figaro also asks Susanna to arrange a rendezvous with the Count later on that evening in the garden. He plans for Cherubino, dressed as a girl, to go in Susanna’s place. The Count will be humiliated and forced to mend his ways. As Rosina and Susanna begin to disguise Cherubino, Susanna leaves the room for a moment. The Count arrives in a jealous fury, having read the anonymous note.He knocks on the bedroom door and finds it locked. A terrified Cherubino locks himself in the closet while the flustered Countess then unlocks her door for the Count. Susanna re-enters, unnoticed. The Countess refuses to unlock the closet, so the Count leaves, taking the Countess with him, in search of tools to break the lock. Susanna helps the page escape through the window, and then she hides in the closet, surprising both the Count and Countess when they find her there. Figaro arrives and tries to get everyone to come to the wedding festivities.When Antonio the gardener enters and claims someone has jumped out of the window, Figaro takes the blame. Marcellina bursts in with the notary Don Curzio, Bartolo and Basilio and demands hercase against Figaro be heard.
As the Count tries to clear his head for the impromptu deliberations over Marcellina’s case against Figaro, the Countess alters Figaro’s plan: Susanna will ask the Count to meet her in the garden that evening, but the Countess herself will goin her place. The Count eagerly agrees to meet Susanna, but he hears her tell Figaro that they have already“won the case” and he is once again filled with suspicion. Cherubino is spirited away by Barbarina in an effort to avoid the Count for even a few hours longer. Rosina, alone in her chamber, laments that she is reduced to the petty plots of her servant; she desires only to be loved and adored again. Don Curzio, the notary, has determined that Figaro must either pay off the old debt or marry Marcellina. Figaro claims that, as the son of an aristocrat, he cannot marry without the consent of his parents, and since he was a foundling, he doesn’texpect to be able to find them. Hearing the story of his childhood abduction, Marcellina realizes that she is Figaro’s mother and reveals that his father is Dr. Bartolo. Susanna unexpectedly appears with perfect timing, bringing the money the Countess has given her to pay off Figaro’s debt. Enraged at seeing Figaro embrace Marcellina, she is placated when she understands the true situation. A double wedding is declared, so that Marcellina and Bartolomay legitimize their relationship and son as well.Antonio once again disrupts the plans. He informs the Count that Cherubino is indeed still at Aguas Frescas, against the Count’s previous orders.The Countess dictates a note for Susanna to give to the Count, specifying the location of their supposed rendezvous later that evening in the garden. During the wedding festivities, Susanna slips thisnote to the Count. The Count is to return a pin used to seal the note as an acknowledgment that he will meet her. He gives the pin to Barbarina to give to Susanna.
Barbarina is looking both for Cherubino and for the pin the Count gave her. She tells Figaro what has happened, and he believes that Susanna plans to betray him. Crushed, he hides in the garden and plans his revenge. Susanna baits the trap and sings of her love for the Count, as the Countess transforms herself into the guise of Susanna. Their scenario to fool the Count is disrupted by the arrival of Cherubino. Figaro eventually realizes what is going on and gets even with Susanna by wooing her in her Countess disguise. Mistaking Susanna for his wife, the Count attempts to “expose” her, but when the real Countess appears, the Count is the one who must ask for forgiveness.