Figaro, part one

Attracting attention is easier than holding it: thus the challenge for a second blog post. Still, I must make the effort: I owe it to my fan!* **

[*ironical reference, for those readers who take everything literally, see the world in black and white, and for whom abstract thinking is, sadly, not an option (see also conservatives); never mind the fact that, literally speaking, I really DO have only one fan**]

{**self-deprecating humor, for the benefit of any French readers, for whom this concept is foreign. It means mocking oneself rather than …. oh never mind, just skip the ** parts}

Last Sunday my husband Francois and I attended the Annapolis Opera production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”. Francois has sung the role of Bartolo in countless productions

Figaro has always been my favorite opera. Three geniuses — Beaumarchais the playright, Da Ponte the librettist, and Mozart the composer– create a timeless world within a world on the verge of revolution. All the characters, both aristocrats and servants, are so utterly human, and the music they voice so sublime, that we forget how far that world seems from ours. Now that all productions feature projected translations, it is easy to follow the moral dilemma faced by the Count: follow his better nature and abolish the traditional droit du seigneur: the master’s right to rape his servant before her wedding night; or, give in to his lust for his wife’s maid Susanna, the intended bride of his valet, Figaro. Such an ugly prospect and the absolute power to enforce it puts the coming French Revolution into very personal terms. No wonder the play was banned in its time.

What ultimately saves Susanna from the Count’s sexual prerogative is not his better nature but his hapless entrapment by the Countess disguised as Susanna meeting him in the moonlight. Faced with undeniable proof of his faithless intentions, the Count drops to his knees and begs her pardon, and she, revealing the true meaning of aristocratic magnanimity, forgives him. Their exchange is set to the most soaring, yet simplest music Mozart ever wrote. At that moment all action is suspended–only Mozart can stop the world with melody. And I wonder: did Mozart anticipate that audiences, especially Americans, would laugh at the Count and mar the moment? They never believe his sincerity, and the more convincingly the singer plays the role, the harder it is for audiences to accept his sudden change of character. Yet I believe that the Count really does repent, at least for that moment, and the music tells me that Mozart believes it, too. I also believe that if Mozart did anticipate the public’s skepticism of the Count’s sincerity, he intended his music to petition Heaven directly on behalf of poor, flawed humanity, audiences included.


About madebymalou

About to enter my 60's, I hope finally to round up all my diverse interests in one place. Long ago I was a classically trained singer; age and illness took away my voice. I filled the void with motherhood and crafts. Lately by some mysterious grace, I've found my voice again. So I'll be writing about singing as well as sewing. Reminiscing about the nomadic life of opera singers; responding to artist-daughter's bold visions. And hopefully growing always, in how I think, and feel, and sew, and sing.
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2 Responses to Figaro, part one

  1. Shana says:

    Lovely post and reflection :o) The beauty of Mozart’s music in this piece transcends our expectation of reality with complete credibility.

  2. darkarchivist says:

    Totally agree with you about the Count.

    Nice to meet an opera enthusiastic — myself, I’m a burgeoning would-be one who’s only ever seen two or three in her lifetime.

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