One of the most beloved productions, The Marriage of Figaro as directed by Jonathan Miller, returned to the Metropolitan Opera stage for the 2009-2010 season. While Miller has been known to go off on conceptual journeys to highlight his interpretations, his Marriage of Figaro is just about perfect, especially coupled with Anthony Sher’s brilliant The Barber of Seville.
These masterpieces are both based on the plays of Beaumarchais. The Barber of Seville was used by Rossini to make a very light-hearted romp of an opera. The Marriage of Figaro was a perfect vehicle for Mozart to examine the complexities of marriage, relationships, infidelity, infatuation, and long-lasting commitment, all couched in a comic framework set up by the extraordinary Lorenzo Da Ponte. Da Ponte and Mozart were a match made in opera heaven, sharing a similar rebellious spirit and a desire to scandalize. The results were some of Mozart’s greatest operatic efforts.
The Marriage of Figaro finds our hero Figaro settling down to marry his long-time love Susanna. Susanna is maidservant to the Countess Almaviva, whose husband, the Count, just can’t seem to remain committed to his loving and suffering wife. With the help of the young page Cherubino, they manage to show the Count the errors of his ways. Along the way, Figaro and Susanna go through their own insecurities before marriage, and Cherubino finds a suitable girl instead of falling for every woman in sight.
What is particularly brilliant about the score is the way Mozart is able to mirror the complexities of the plot. The music is lush and gorgeous but just underneath are dark undertones that threaten to upset the plot and all the loving couples. Mozart goes from solo arias, through duets, trios, sextets, septets, and finally has nine people onstage singing their feelings about love; and finally they sing in a united message that celebrates love.