Photo and videos by Kenneth Ingram.
Apartment613 has two pairs of tickets for the Marriage of Figaro’s opening night performance on Saturday, March 21, 2015. To enter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Marriage” in the subject header. Winners will be selected by random draw at noon on Friday, March 20th.
It’s a great time to toss aside everything you thought you knew about opera and take a trip to the theatre. Ottawa’s small but mighty Opera Lyra is bringing its lively take on Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro to the NAC and it looks like it’s going to be a great run. Figaro is one of the best loved operas of all time but it’s also a great show for those who have never been to the opera. The music is brilliant, the action non-stop, the story fantastic, and the characters ring true.
Apartment613 attended a preview at Knox Presbyterian to learn more about the production, what makes this opera great and hear from the cast about their favourite moments in the show. Soprano Sasha Djihanian, playing Susanna and James Westman, playing Count Almaviva treated us to a scene from the beginning of Act 3, singing a gorgeous duet in full costume:
The scene with its scheming, teasing and lustful skirt lifting was the perfect introduction to this fast-paced comedy full of intrigue and misadventure. Afterward, we got to talk with director Tom Diamond, conductor Kevin Mallon and four members of the cast including Ottawa’s own Wallis Giunta. It was a delightful morning, basking in Djihanian and Westman’s rich voices, taking in the lavishly detailed costumes and getting a behind-the-scenes look into the passion and dedication that opera demands.
The Marriage of Figaro is all about a wedding day where things go anything but smoothly. In fact, the opera was adapted from a stage play by Pierre Beaumarchais called “le folle journee” or “the crazy day.” Figaro, the valet to Count Almaviva is planning to marry Susanna, the maid to the Countess. Meanwhile the Count is intent on seducing young Susanna as the Countess herself is pursued by the young page, Cherubino. All sorts of twists and turns ensue as Figaro and Susanna set out to outsmart their master through a series of tricks.
Director Tom Diamond and conductor Kevin Mallon have put their own spin on the opera, setting it in Edwardian England so everything has the feel of Downtown Abbey. The new staging makes the show more relatable than the original setting in 18th century Spain. The director also points out that, at a time when the service industry changed forever, it’s the perfect setting for this story that pokes fun at the ruling class.
Apt613: What makes this opera great?
Wallis Giunta (Cherubino): Not only are all the individual musical pieces so incredible that they could stand alone with or without the opera but the story and the characters and the humanity of what they go through resonates with everyone I’ve ever talked to who’s seen it or heard the music even on a recording. You just can’t deny that it makes you feel something and it speaks to something that we have all experienced. It’s just real, real life. Some operas are so convoluted or lofty that even if it’s a beautiful melody you can’t really get into it. You can appreciate it and watch it but this one I think people feel they’re watching a part of themselves.
Director Tom Diamond: You know sometimes people go to the opera and go ‘oh God, that’s so long?’ everything in The Marriage of Figaro is so short. All the musical bits, nothing is longer than two or three minutes. It’s all these little bits so the action is continually moving forward. And it’s a really good story. It’s so well written, it’s intriguing and then there’s Mozart. And Mozart being one of the great geniuses of all time, he writes at such a high level. For instance, the second act finale starts with two people singing, then he adds a third person, then he adds a fourth person, then he adds a fifth person, then he adds a sixth person and it just grows. Every composer that came after just looked toward that and went how does he do that?
Sasha Djihanian (Susanna): Everything is good. It’s such an active piece where there’s always something going on and there’s really not one boring moment in this opera. It’s very accessible. Of course, it’s placed in the time of Downtown Abbey, the start of the 20th century but the relationships are very real. Ok, Susanna is a ladies maid but the things she’s going through are things everyone goes through. She’s supposed to get married, somebody else is trying to seduce her- that happens to everyone. It’s like if your boss is trying to hit on you what are you going to do about it?
Apt613: What is your favourite moment in the opera?
Conductor Kevin Mallon: The very first entry of the Countess. This (Figaro) is the second part of the story. You have The Barber of Seville which is the first part of the Beaumarchais story and then you have The Marriage of Figaro. In The Barber of Seville it’s all about the Count and Countess getting together. By the time we start here, the Countess has lost her man. And the first time she comes on, it’s just the most poignant moment and for me that’s the most perfect moment. There’s lots of fun moments and exciting moments but that‘s the most tender moment of the whole thing. When you see her, just a year or two before it was all excitement and now here she is alone.
Wallis Giunta (Cherubino):
In the Act 4 finale when everything, all the plots and confusions in the show are brought to light, everything’s on the table, there’s no more secrets, the Count can’t hide anything from his wife, he realizes that all that’s left for him is to ask for forgiveness and he does, in the most beautiful, touching way. And it’s some of the most sublime music that Mozart ever wrote. And she forgives him. That to me is the ultimate moment of humanity in this show. I think it makes the whole show sit with people. After all the craziness and frivolity of this pretty wild plot we get that moment and everyone can’t help but just sit there feeling ‘I can identify with this, having done wrong and realizing it and genuinely asking for forgiveness.
Performances of The Marriage of Figaro are scheduled for Saturday March 21, Monday March 23, Wednesday March 25 and Saturday March 28, 2015 at the National Arts Centre. All shows start at 8pm. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased online.