Great Performances at the Met: ‘The Marriage of Figaro’

“Great Performances at the Met: Le Nozze di Figaro” premieres on Friday, 16 January 2015 on PBS at 9 p.m. (Check local listings). If you love Mozart and the grace and glamour of the 1930s, then this is the production for you.

Director Richard Eyre stages this opera in a stately manor of the 1930s. Instead of the courtly frocks and downs, we have tuxes, double breasted suits, ladies in mid-calf length dresses and maids in stylish uniforms. All is set before the streamlined art deco influenced set design.

Met music director James Levine, keeps the music flowing as the action creates harmony and disharmony between two couples.  The action takes place in one day, taking place years after the events of “The Barber of Seville,” the comic opera by Giovanni Paisiello (1782) and is based on a French play by Pierre Beaumarchais. “The Marriage of Figaro” opera is based on the Beauchmarchais’ stage comedy “La Folle Journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro” (1784).

Mozart’s opera with an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte premiered in 1786. The one day of madness takes place in Count Almaviva’s palace outside of Seville, Spain. Dr. Bartolo had wanted to marry Rosina, but in the previous play, “The Barber of Seville,” his intentions were thwarted by Figaro and Rosina married the Count. As a reward, Figaro, who had been working as a barber, has become the personal valet to the Count as a reward for his service. But now the romantic youth has become a mature man with a wandering eye. The Count becomes attracted to Rosina’s maid, Susanna. Now Figaro, the Countess and Susanna conspire to expose the Count and embarrass him, however, Dr. Bartolo seeks revenge against Figaro for interfering with his intentions toward Rosina in the past.

While “The Barber of Seville” ended with a wedding, “The Marriage of Figaro” ends its first act with a wedding and then continues on as the Count attempts to seduce Figaro’s wife.

Ildar Abdrazakov, star of Prince Igor (also seen on Great Performances at the Met) and an acclaimed Figaro at the Met in the past, sings the title role.  Marlis Petersen is Figaro’s quick-witted bride-to-be, Susanna; Peter Mattei portrays Count Almaviva; Amanda Majeski in her Met debut as Almaviva’s wife, the long-suffering Countess; and Isabel Leonard as the boisterous page Cherubino.

Eyre’s Met credits include the 2009 hit production of Carmen and last season’s Werther, both broadcast on Great Performances at the Met. The 1930s setting makes the opera more accessible to modern audiences and yet retains some of the nostalgic grace and manners of another era.

“Great Performances at the Met: Le Nozze di Figaro” premieres on PBS on Friday, January 16 at 9 pm on PBS. Check local listings.

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