Probably no other opera in the standard repertoire has more characters or a more twisted plot than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Its synopsis takes up three-fourths of a page in the program and that’s in small type.
Yet it’s those twists and turns in the plot that make the opera so popular, in addition to the lively musical score.
“The Marriage of Figaro” caps off the 2014-15 New Orleans Opera Association season with performances on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. The first of three collaborations between Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, the opera is sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage.
During the New Orleans Opera production the opera’s four acts are combined into two with one intermission.
Premiering in 1786, “Figaro” was the sequel to “The Barber of Seville,” a popular opera that was composed just four years earlier by Giovanni Paisiello.
Five of the main characters, including Figaro, a barber in the employ of Count Almaviva, are present in both operas.
The plot of “The Marriage of Figaro” centers on the Count’s attempt to exercise a feudal custom that allowed a lord to seduce a servant girl on the night before her wedding. Almaviva abolished the practice when he married the Countess, Rosina, but he now wants to reinstate it and have his way with Susanna, Figaro’s prospective bride.
Figaro plans to thwart the Count. He has plenty of help along the way, especially from the Countess and some of the other servants in the nobleman’s castle. Hilarity ensues as this labyrinthine “opera buffa” proceeds to its happy ending.
In the words of New Orleans Opera General Director Robert Lyall, “It’s not just another day at the castle.”
Soprano Lisette Oropesa will be singing the role of Susanna. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, she was born in New Orleans and grew up in Baton Rouge where she graduated from LSU.
Oropesa’s most recent role with NOOA was as Leila in George Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” (2011).
“Susanna is one of my favorite roles,” she said, “and it’s always good to come home and be surrounded by people I’ve grown up with and who’ve always been there for me.”
Onstage with her several times, will be her aunt, Elizabeth Lowry, a member of the New Orleans Opera Chorus.
Regarding her role, which she said is “the longest role in the entire soprano repertoire,” Oropesa added, “I really feel very close to the character because she’s a woman ahead of her time. She gets put into a lot of very delicate situations and has to deal with a lot of other people’s problems on a regular basis and really doesn’t have time for her own problems. But she manages to find solutions with great grace and great timing and with a very level head.”
Oropesa also noted that, “This opera involves a lot of suspension of disbelief. You’ve got people wearing disguises and people hiding under tables and behind the couch and in the closet. And you’ve got people trying to outsmart each other, and everybody thinks they’re the smartest person in the room. That’s the fun thing about the show. Every character thinks they’re the smartest and most clever one.”
Other principals in the cast are Lithuanian bass-baritone Kostas Smoriginas as Figaro, tenor Keith Phares as Almaviva, soprano Twyla Robinson as the Countess and mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne in the “trouser role” of Cherubino, a young servant boy who’s “in love with all women.”
Robert Lyall conducts the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra for both performances.