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‘The Marriage of Figaro’ = some kind of (honeymoon) for Bremerton Symphony and Kitsap Opera
First-ever official collaboration for the long-standing Kitsap chamber music ensembles.
This opera, a centuries old tale of love and lust and the comedy of mistaken identity, is rife with marriage and the carnal desire thereof.
“Le nozze di Figaro,” it’s called. Known in English as “The Marriage of Figaro.” It was based on a staged comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais called “La Folle Journee, ou le Mariage de Figaro” — which means “The Crazy Day, or the Marriage of Figaro.”
It’s the first of three revered collaborations between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the composer, and Italian librettist Lorenzo da Ponte — the other two being “Don Giovanni” in 1787 and “Cosi fan tutte” in 1790. It's also, incidentally, serving as the first collaboration between the Bremerton Symphony and Kitsap Opera.
“The Marriage” is one of Mozart’s most famous operas. The overture is regularly played and uber-recognizable. The 18th-century work is at the cornerstone of the standard operatic repertoire.
And it is a beast.
When I talked to her before rehearsal earlier this week, Kitsap Opera founder and artistic director Leone Cottrell-Adkins laughs, “If it would’ve been my choice, I don’t think we would be doing this one ... .”
“Oh, don’t put that in there,” she interjects, not wanting to offend.
But there’s no offense.
She seems a bit frazzled with the stresses of the first day of dress rehearsal, first day getting into the space where they’ll be performing the classic Mozart opera in just a few days.
Costumers and actors are bustling in the hallway, wrangling into costumes and makeup. Stage lights are adjusting. The symphony is coming alive in the orchestra pit beneath the stage. And Cottrell-Adkins is sitting almost at the center point of an empty audience, in the middle of it all, with a double-arm-full of scores and notebooks.
“This opera’s got a million words,” she tells me, noting that she’s been working for months to transcribe it — old school — for the show’s digital supertitles (which are shown on a projector screen above the stage for those opera-goers not so fluent in Italian).
“It’s got so many recitatives,” Cottrell-Adkins continues. Recitatives are narratives in opera, which are sung in a speaking manner. “Which is why it’s so wordy. Usually we could just cut some of those out, but if we cut the recitatives out of this piece, you wouldn’t know what’s going on in the story.”
Which would definitely be a drag, granted you know what’s going on in the first place.
When I watched a practice run of the performance this past weekend, I probably would’ve been completely lost if I hadn’t learned a bit about the story of “Le Nozze di Figaro” beforehand.
Even still, I was a touch lost. Of course, I didn’t have the advantage of supertitles, but nonetheless enjoyed the beautiful voices emboldened by a striking and subtle symphony and the dysfunctional story of Figaro and his girl, Susanna.
Set in the palace of The Count Almaviva, in medieval Spain, Figaro (played by Jonathan Silva) and Susanna (Leann Conley) are in love. And as the title would suggest they’re planning to wed. But they’re caught up in a sort-of medieval monarchial soap opera.
The Count (David Borning) is trying to get his hands on Susanna, and Figaro is livid; sword-shaking, singing-infortissimo livid. And rightfully so.
The Count is trying to reinstate a recently abolished feudal right that permits a lord to take the virginity of a servant girl before she is married to her husband. He’s also being terribly unfaithful to his wife, The Countess Rosina (played by Eleanor Stallcop-Horrox).
So Figaro, Susanna and the Countess Rosina conspire to shame the Count with a plot to expose his infidelity.
Meanwhile, a randy little cross-dressing knight’s squire named Cherubino (played by Marana Avant) is in love with The Countess (his godmother) and Figaro is caught up in a dispute with a lady named Marcellina who demands his hand in marriage in service of debt to a clause in a contract. Oh, and then Barbarina, the daughter of one of the Count’s friends who happens to stop by, asks her daddy to see to it that she gets Cherubino’s hand in marriage.
That night, of course, they all find themselves on the palace grounds at the classic party rife with comedic cases of mistaken identity — where it’s revealed that Figaro is actually Marcellini’s illegitimate son.
It’s good stuff.
And that’s only the half of it, through the first part of Act 3. And like I said, only if you know what’s going on.
There’s four acts altogether, four hours of opera and comedy, drama and mystery from Kitsap Opera and the Bremerton Symphony.
It’s special, and a bit surprising, I think, that it’s the first official collaboration between the two long-standing Kitsap performing arts institutions.
Granted Bremerton Symphony players have provided the soundtrack for Kitsap Opera for many years now, but this was the first time the symphony had been properly asked out on a date, said Bremerton Symphony conductor Elizabeth Stoyanovich.
And they happily accepted.
SEE THE FIRST EVER COLLABORATION as Kitsap Opera and the Bremerton Symphony present Mozart's opera "Le Nozze di Figaro" with performances at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 and 2 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Bremerton Performing Arts Center, at Bremerton High School, 1500 13th St. in Bremerton. Tickets are $30 for adults, $12 for kids. Info: www.bremertonsymphony.org, www.kitsapopera.org or call the box office at (360) 373-1722.