At the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts
Friday, September 29, 2023
6:30 PM Pre-Opera Party
6:30 PM Nuts and Bolts Lecture
7:30 PM Performance
Sunday, October 1, 2023
1:30 PM Pre-Opera Party
1:30 PM Nuts and Bolts Lecture
2:30 PM Performance
Join us for a post-show talkback immediately following the performances.
Composer – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Librettist – Lorenzo Da Ponte
Conductor – Elizabeth Askren
The Jerry W. Zachary and Henry Bernstein Maestro Chair
Stage Director – Chas Rader-Shieber
Scenery – Steven Kemp
Costumes – Susan Branch Towne
Lighting – Connie Yun
Count Almaviva – Theo Hoffman
Countess Almaviva – Laquita Mitchell
Figaro – Anthony Reed
Susanna – Cadie J. Bryan
Cherubino – Sun-Ly Pierce
Bartolo – Ashraf Sewailam
Marcellina – Luretta Bybee
Basilio – Tyrone Chambers
Barbarina – Joel Dyson
Antonio – Ivan Griffin
With The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra
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Meet the Cast and Creative Team
Cadie J. Bryan
Susan Branch Towne
Did you know…
The Marriage of Figaro is one of the most performed operas of the canon. Its breezy plot and broad ensemble comedy make it an easy entry point for operagoers as well as a beloved place to return for seasoned fans. Given its reputation as a light comedy, it may be surprising that this subject material was greeted as trenchant class commentary when it premiered.
Cloaked in a comedy of errors – complete with multiple cases of mistaken identity, long-lost relatives, and cross-dressing hijinks – the source material skewered the ruling class, portraying them as fallible, foolish, and weak-minded. The play upon which this opera is based was written by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais and was banned for some years for its themes of class tension.
Taking place over a single day in Count Almaviva’s estate outside of Seville, Spain, Susanna and Figaro, servants of the Count and Countess, plan their wedding. When Figaro learns that the Count has tried to seduce Susanna, he sets out for revenge.
With Susanna, The Countess, and the count’s page, Cherubino, Figaro concocts a plan of deception and manipulation to ensnare the Count in his scheming. Although the Count tries to retaliate with his own daring plan to marry Figaro off to another, much older woman, his plan laughably falls to pieces when the true identity of the older woman is revealed. Fortunately for Figaro and Susanna, the day ends with peace between the Count and Countess, finally making it possible for their own marriage to proceed.
In Count Almaviva’s estate, his servant Figaro measures a room for a bridal bed for himself and his love, the Countess’s maid Susanna. Figaro is quite pleased with the room, but Susanna professes concerns over its proximity to the Count, who has recently made unwanted advances toward her. Susanna rushes off to tend to the Countess while Figaro pledges to exact revenge on the Count.
With Susanna and Figaro gone, Dr. Bartolo, both a doctor, and lawyer, enters with Marcellina, his former housekeeper. Figaro once borrowed money from Marcellina and provided, as collateral, a promise to marry if the sum was not paid off by an agreed-upon time. Bartolo – who resents Figaro for facilitating the Count and Countess’s marriage – has agreed to represent Marcellina. Bartolo departs, and Susanna returns to find Marcellina—the two exchange verbal joists.
Cherubino, the Count’s page, arrives. As a young man who loves all women, he has caught the ire of the Count, who found him with the gardener’s daughter, Barbarina. Cherubino wants Susanna to ask the Countess to intercede on his behalf but is interrupted by the sudden arrival of the Count.
Hidden away, he overhears the Count’s demands on Susanna. Basilio, the music teacher, arrives. Now the Count is also forced to hide so he is not caught alone with Susanna. Basilio gossips about Cherubino’s attraction to the Countess. This elicits a reaction from the Count, who jumps from his hiding place. As he recounts Cherubino’s flirtatious ways, he finds the young man hidden underneath a tablecloth. Furious, the Count recognizes the compromising position he has found himself in; Cherubino has witnessed his conversation with Susanna. Even so, he expresses his rage and dispatches the boy for military duty.
Figaro joyfully enters with peasants from the estate. He requests for the Count to bless the wedding formally. Put on the spot, the Count stalls.
The Countess grieves the state of her marriage. Susanna shares a plan that she and Figaro hatched. They will disguise Cherubino as Susanna and have him flirt with the Count, entrapping him in a compromising situation. Simultaneously, Figaro will send a letter to the Count claiming that the Countess is having her own affair.
Cherubino arrives with a commission letter that needs to be sealed by the Count. At this moment, The Count knocks. Susanna steps into an adjoining room as the Countess locks Cherubino away in the dressing room. The Count senses something is amiss and demands that the dressing room door be unlocked. When the Countess refuses, The Count drags her away with him to find a crowbar for the door. Susanna reappears and helps Cherubino escape out a window. When the Count and Countess return, they are astonished to find Susanna in the dressing room.
Figaro gathers everyone for the wedding. He is accompanied by Antonio, the gardener, who is upset that someone jumped from the Countess’s balcony, ruining his flowers. Figaro quickly feigns a limp and claims that it was he who jumped. When the gardener produces Cherubino’s commission letter, Figaro claims he was holding it to secure the Count’s seal.
Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio enter. They inform the Count of Figaro’s debts. The Count declares that Figaro must marry Marcellina.
Prompted by the Countess, Susanna agrees to entrap the Count in the garden that night. As she leaves, The Count –to his irritation– overhears her tell Figaro that his money woes will soon be over.
Marcellina, Bartolo, and their lawyer, Don Curzio, confront Figaro. He tells them that, although he was kidnapped at birth, he is of royal blood and needs the permission of his birth parents, whom he does not know, to marry Marcellina. To prove his royal nature, he reveals a birthmark that Marcellina and Bartolo both recognize. They are Figaro’s birth parents! Moved by the revelation, Marcellina and Bartolo also decide to marry.
As the crowd leaves, Cherubino, dressed as a woman, appears with his sweetheart, Barbarina. Barbarina’s father, Antonio, exposes Cherubino to the Count. Barbarina reminds the Count of the time he seduced her, promising her anything she wanted. Reluctantly, he allows Cherubino to stay.
Meanwhile, the Countess dictates a letter to Susanna meant for the Count. In the letter, “Susanna” asks that they meet that night and requests him to bring the pin, which fastens the letter. The Countess plans to assume Susanna’s role and surprise the Count.
Figaro assembles everyone for the double wedding. During a dance with the Count, Susanna slips him the note.
Barbarina worries after losing the pin that the Count trusted her to deliver to Susanna. Figaro and Marcellina appear and learn of the meeting. Thinking that Susanna is unfaithful, Figaro rushes off, ignoring his mother’s advice to use caution.
Figaro finds Bartolo and Basilio and tries to recruit them to help thwart Susanna’s infidelity. The two instead refuse and leave Figaro alone, where he stews on what he sees as the inconsistency of women.
Susanna and the Countess arrive, each dressed in the other’s clothes. Figaro himself is hiding. The Countess leaves as Susanna sings of love. She is aware that Figaro is in earshot and enjoys working him into a jealous fit.
The Countess enters again in Susanna’s clothes. The fooled Cherubino tries to seduce her but is chased away by the Count when he arrives. Figaro now understands the hijinks and joins in, declaring his love for the Countess, whom he understands is actually Susanna. Unaware of the scenario, the Count moves to expose Figaro and the “Countess” when his wife (the real Countess) reveals herself.
When, at last, the Count understands what has transpired, he begs his wife for forgiveness for his wayward ways. The Countess ultimately forgives the Count, and the entire house celebrates the happy end to the eventful day.
- Based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (“The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro”). Because the material dealt with sensitive issues around class, the play was deemed objectionable by Austrian Emperor Joseph II and banned from performance. After a special appeal and revisions to the story, Mozart and Da Ponte received approval for an operatic version.
- In the opera, Count Almaviva tries to exercise his droit du seigneur (‘right of the lord’). This medieval European legal right allowed Lords to have sexual relations with subordinate women, particularly on the woman’s wedding night.
- Mozart and Da Ponte would go on to collaborate on two more wildly popular operas, Don Giovanni (1787) and Così fan tutte (1790).
- When the audiences’ rapturous reception caused long encores that greatly extended the length of the performances, Emperor Joseph II made a public proclamation banning all encores except those of solo arias.
While the two works stand-alone, the story of Marriage of Figaro is a sequel of sorts to the events of Barber of Seville (mounted by New Orleans Opera last season!)
Student Study Guide