The Two Gay Geeks attended the Arizona Opera production of Marriage of Figaro on Saturday night April 6th. This performance happened to coincide with Phoenix Pride and Arizona Opera held their own Pride Event entitled “Out at the Opera” for the second year. They plan on making this a yearly even for the community as part of their “making opera accessible” initiative. Thank you Arizona Opera.
It was a nice event before the opera to celebrate pride and see others. We were joined by a few friends, Joseph and Edward as well as Marge at the event. There were our usual opera friends joining in the mix as well.
The evening started early with a cocktail reception and some light snacks and lots of mingling and schmoozing. It was great to see such a good turnout with the Pride event going simultaneously. Sam Lowery, Assistant Director of Development then made a few announcements about the sponsors and Arizona Opera. A raffle was held and several really great prizes were given away. More socializing and then it was time to go in and see a wonderful performance.
The Marriage of Figaro
The Marriage of Figaro (1786), an opera written by Mozart and is the counterpart to Barber of Seville (1816) by Rossini, although they were written in different time periods… Beumarchais wrote a couple of plays about Count Almaviva and Figaro from which this opera is taken It is interesting that the play was initially banned in Vienna because it had objectionable material in it (inciting rebellion…). See, Opera has so many convoluted elements from plots, to composing, and then we have performances and productions. Who can keep it straight. 😉
The Marriage of Figaro takes place a number of years after the events of Barber of Seville with Count Almaviva (now a baritone), who having been married to Rosina, the Countess, for several years, is now bored with his wife and life and seeks to spice it up a bit. Figaro has become the Counts Chief of Staff plans to marry Susanna but, the ever scheming Count seeks to delay that event through multiple machinations. Scheming and plotting abound in this “day of madness” (another name for the play) among every single character (madness equals hilarity). There are a few plot twists and even a Falstaff-esque unmasking, if you will, of the Counts plots. In the end, the Count reaffirms his love for the Countess in a truly stuuning bit of music sung by the Count and the Countess who are then joined by the chorus and they all sing “happy ending, happy ending”.
Figaro, for short, has some of the most recognizable music of Mozart, from the Overture (which was inaccurately ascribed to Rachmaninoff in the 1971 Willy Wonka movie) to several arias and, of course, the ensemble pieces. If you have seen the film, Amadeus, you have heard quite a few snippets from Figaro. It is such a delightful piece of music that some have called it the perfect opera.
Marriage of Figaro has some of my favorite Mozart music in it and requires precision from not only the orchestra but from the voices as well given there are multiple ensemble pieces throughout the three hours of music. Maestro Dean Williamson was spot on with his tempos and direction of the singers and managed to bring out the subtleties in the orchestration for a smaller chamber type orchestra. It doesn’t hurt that the Arizona Opera orchestra is one of the finest orchestras in the regional opera business.
The Saturday night performance featured a number of the young artists from the Marion Roose Pullin Opera Studio Artists program at Arizona Opera; Cadie Jordan as Susanna, Billie Bruley as Don Basilio and Don Curzio, Jarrett Porter as Antonio, Katherine Beck as Cherubino, and Brandon Morales as Figaro. Rounding out the cast were Zachary Nelson as Count Almaviva, Katie Van Kooten as the Countess, Mark Schnaible as Doctor Bartolo, Lucy Schaufer as Marcellina, and Jana McIntyre as Barbarina. All of the voices were exceptional with a few standouts; Zachary Nelson had an incredible stage presence and WAS the Count. Katie Van Kooten brought tears to my ears in the two big arias the Countess sings. Cadie Jordan was truly a songbird, every time she opened her mouth beautiful sound issued forth. This young lady has a very promising career ahead of her.
The production and staging was delightful, everyone hit their marks with ease and for this opera having a fair amount of the comedy that can be a trick. It is nice to see comedy in opera done well, it just adds to the whole experience. And Bravo to the translator for the surtitles, they helped the comedic aspect of the show. The sets were outstanding, as we have come to expect from the productions of Arizona Opera.
As we were leaving Symphony Hall we both said this was one of the finest productions Arizona Opera has mounted. Everything about it top to bottom and all the way around was perfect for Mozart’s perfect opera.
Arizona Opera is doing great work in the Phoenix and Tucson community, bringing new audiences to opera through the McDougall Red Series and student nights at the opera as well as many other outreach programs. Please consider supporting Arizona Opera through a donation even if you are a ticket purchaser or a season ticket subscriber. Ticket sales are only a small portion of the budget for any opera company, they depend on the generosity of their patrons and those curious about fine arts in their community.