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Mozart’s “The Marriage Of Figaro”, Saturday, January 15th, 1PM, At The Metropolitan Opera, Reviewed

If you are new to opera and want to ease yourself into it, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “La Nocce De Figaro”, in repertoire through April at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, is where you should start. ” La Nocce De Figaro “‘s classic Mozart collaboration with the Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte was first performed in 1786 and found its way to the Met in 1894 as one of the greatest operas of all time. The production currently at the Met was directed and produced by Richard Eyre (he also directed the premiere of a Tom Stoppard masterpiece, “The Invention Of Love”) on the same stage, though changed the era from the start of the French Revolution to 1930s Germany before the Third Reich.

By moving it to Germany, the production distills the dying monarchy in the background, but maintains the Downton Abbey , upstairs-downstairs house in turmoil between the royals and the servants in the royal household. It also removes itself a little from its roots, the 1784 stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (“The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro”). “Figaro” is the middle of the trilogy. First there was “The Barber Of Seville -also turned into an opera, with Figaro the title barber, a former employee of the Count Almaviva who helps The Count woo his beloved and marry her. “The Marriage Of Figaro” happens at the Count’s manor three years after his marriage. Figaro plans to wed the Countess’s handmaiden Susanna, but the Count wants to sleep with her through the royal right of first bonk on a servant. The boy page is obsessed with most girls including the Countess; Marceline has given Figaro money and has a contract saying he will marry or payback Marceline. And the Countess is furious with her husband. The third play “The Guilty Mother” is 20 years later, it finds Cherubini, a suicide in battle, leave the Countess pregnant with his son while the Count has an illegitimate daughter. The next generation fall in love and a happy ending comes about.

So, clearly we are in Moliere land here (Beaumarchais also called “The Mother” another name, “The Other Tartuffe”), and the third play was also made into an opera, though not a very successful one. This opera, “The Marriage Of Figaro”, is a comedy of politics and culture, a set of errors, hidden under beds and out of windows. And while for the most part I didn’t find it funny as such (time has done its cultural destruct trick), it is light as a feather except for some sad and lovely Mozart ballads by the Countess -beautifully sung by soprano Golda Schultz and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny in the title role. Perhaps the best of them all is Isabel Leonard who performed the role in 2014 for Eyre’s production, she was great then and has lost nothing on her wonderful soprano and cheerful and foolish performance, conducted by the late James Levine, who retired in shame in 2018 after his secret life as a sexual predator raping young men, came to light. Daniele Rustioni conducted Saturday afternoon’s performance.

The lightness of the show, filled with Mozart’s skilful, easy mannered beauty, makes the performances, three and a half hours including intermission, the sort of opera we want in the winter of 2022, the music astounding, and the ending so cheerful, all three couples and the Count and Countess get what they want. When first composed King Louis XVI banned it (despite his wife, Marie Antoinette’s love for it).

In 2022 nothing remains of the French Revolution, it is no indictment of the ruling or working class, instead sex and skills level the playing field and Mozart gives music, bubbly arias, among the greatest ever composed, along with Isabel Leonard (who also played Cinderella late last year) excelling with “Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio” (“I do not know anymore what I am, what I do, One moment I’m on fire, the next moment I am cold as ice, Every woman changes my color, Every woman makes me tremble”) – well, yes, sounds like a teenage boy even if it is wonderfully gifted woman. Cherubina was confused sexually and so it comes across as a comedic pleading, later on the child’s guilelessness woos the Countess on ” Voi Che Sapete Che Cosa E Amor”. The third highlight is the countess (sung by the splendid Golda) lamenting her husbands roving eye, is the third show stopper. At the end of Act One there is a conflicting multi part song and at the end of the operas the couples join together.

The beloved opera remains one of the greats, Mozart is without peer and he even improved with “Don Giovanni”. Mozart died so young it is a tragedy, all the music we never got. But in the meantime, you can go and feast your ears and eyes, the next performance is January 20th.

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