By Charlize Althea Garcia, March 7, 2023
Starting its 2023 season with a winter wedding, the Los Angeles Opera performed “The Marriage of Figaro” Feb. 26.
“The Marriage of Figaro” follows an eccentric plotline that proves where the term “soap opera” first originated.
With a potential arranged marriage that turns into a family reunion and trysts occurring in every corner among social classes, the almost four-hour long performance managed to keep me awake with its nighttime soap narrative.
The lighthearted story begins with the pre-marital laze between lovers, Figaro and Susanna, until Figaro finds out the aims of Count Almaviva, played by Lucas Meachem. The affinity between the two were salient in evoking the bride and groom-to-be. Their connection with one another contributed to the sportive rapport that made the audience burst out in laughter while also entrancing us with their blend of voices in Figaro’s and Susanna’s duets.
In the same vein, the Count and Countess Almaviva displayed an engaging bond albeit they were experiencing the marital toils that rooted from an unfaithful husband and the aristocratic God complex displayed by husbands during that time. Meachem and Ana María Martínez performed with an almost puerile harmony that later would bring the couple back into reconciliation.
The opera buffa, or Italian comic opera, was set in the 18th century with costumes and set design staying true to the timeline with the first act taking place in Figaro and Susanna’s quarters in Count Almaviva’s castle.
The curtain revealed the set, and the conviction to form an opinion was dormant because of its colorless set. With an almost aerial view, the set embodied a brush stroke of beige. I assumed the choice rooted from the idea to withhold distraction from the storyline or the performers, but considering LA Opera’s legacy of producing far-fetched ideas on the stage, it was a blindsiding moment. Although, the sets did display an aristocratic charm that contributed to both the cohesiveness and timeliness of the opera.
Costume design followed the same fashion in impression inertia, and though picturesque individually, en masse, it was a multicolored brushstroke that seemed to have no signification. There is an art in implementing intention in the elements of design whether it be color, style choices or shapes. It seems that the only intention was to uphold the style era, missing the opportunity to personify another element to contribute to the art of storytelling.
The storyteller title was reserved for the cast for this production. Craig Colclough, as Figaro, played the role with a jocular stride as a starry-eyed romantic, bringing a sense of naivete in his character. Although, his voice in contrast had a mild stateliness that boomed across the audience.
Susanna, played by Janai Brugger, is the countess’ maid and Figaro’s bride.
Though Figaro is made to be the central character, Susanna can be deemed to be the main protagonist in the story. With such a heroine precedent, Brugger takes the role and proves that Susanna is the forewoman in this narrative. Brugger portrayed her playful brazen wit while simultaneously displaying her gentle, enamored spirit through her silvery voice.
Cherubino, played by mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, was the character most adored by the audience because of his cheekiness and uproarious quips. Chaieb’s performance in Cherubino’s arias were magnetic, almost leaving the audience to wonder how a voice could be housed in such a frivolous character. In contrast, Countess Almaviva displayed a dignified and regal character that rightfully projected through Ana Maria Martinez’s soprano voice.
“The Marriage of Figaro” is unparalleled in terms of storyline. Its libretto compounded with themes of transgression, infidelity and love coupled with Mozart makes for a distinctive production.
Opera is known for its outlandish plots the mind needs to interpret while following along in a different language. “The Marriage of Figaro” follows the same melodramatic design for all operas but with comedic elements that brings up the question of how this existed in the time that it was produced.
With the main theme circling around the plot to outsmart people of status and authority, its mere existence is sardonic to its times. The LA Opera realized this and applied it to the overall production. It might have wanted to spotlight the irony the audiences of today would have appreciated in which they wholeheartedly did.
Feature image courtesy of Cory Weaver
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