The Opera Platform is bringing you another live opera webcast! On Tuesday, September 27, the Dutch National Opera will present a new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. The program will begin at 18:55 CEST (GMT +2; 12:55 PM EDT). Here is a link to The Opera Platform’s page for this opera performance. Here is a link to the Dutch National Opera’s page on the performance, with details on the performers, music, director, and conductor. The opera will be available for a limited time after the initial webcast.
I could have ended the blog post here, but I wanted to share some interesting background information.
The Marriage of Figaro is a wonderful Mozart whipped-cream confection and comedy (Schlagsahne and Susanna?). But did you know the play that it is based on was banned at one time?
The plot of the opera is based on a play by Beaumarchais that caused controversy due to its lampooning of the nobility and the feminist speeches made by the character Marceline (Marcellina in the opera). It was initially banned in France, then censored, then heavily edited. When it finally came to the stage, it was wildly popular. If you read French, here is Beaumarchais’s play on Project Gutenberg. Here is the play in English. Here’s what some famous folks said about it:
Louis XVI : “For this play not to be a danger, the Bastille would have to be torn down first.”
Napoleon Bonaparte: “The revolution in action.”
Mozart’s opera was certainly affected by these events. When it came time to create a libretto for Mozart, librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (himself a rather colorful individual; read the linked biography) again removed portions of the play to get it past Viennese censors and the nervous aristocracy.
When Mozart’s opera appeared in France in 1792, Beaumarchais himself was recruited to reintroduce some of his excised material to better match the revolutionary spirit of the time. The opera was transformed to include some of the spoken dialogues from the original play.
Today, Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, with its catchy tunes and madcap mix-ups, is a delight to the eye and ear. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
- Dudley, W. Sherwood, “The Revolutionary Figaro,” http://artsites.ucsc.edu/faculty/dudley/figaro.historical.html
- Beaumarchais, Pierre, translation/adaptation by Stephen Wadsworth, The Marriage of Figaro, http://www.mccarter.org/figaroplays/5-educators/content/Marriage%20ActI%20Sc%201.pdf
- LaPenta, Emilia, “On Translation/Adaptation”, https://www.mccarter.org/figaroplays/3-explore/ontranslationadaption.html
- Billington, Michael, “How to Stage a Revolution” https://www.theguardian.com/music/2006/jan/06/classicalmusicandopera