Preview: The Marriage of Figaro
So Anna, tell us a bit about the production
Its an extremely exciting production to be putting on; ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ is just a huge, huge opera. Not only are a vast number of songs instantly culturally recognisable to even the most inexperienced of opera-buffs, but the opera has frequently been referred to as the greatest comic opera ever written. Its a massive undertaking to attempt to do it justice.
What drew you to this production?
I think the sheer accessibility of the opera was what most attracted me. I am by no means a music-buff, and am totally out of my depth surrounded by very talented musicians every day, but I don’t think anyone could fail to appreciate how beautiful some sections of the opera are. The plot is entertaining, the music is recognisable, and the opera manages to maintain its levity without compromising moments of genuine pathos. Its perfect for opera beginners and connoisseurs alike.
How have you found the experience of directing a production of such large scale?
Its certainly been tougher than anything I have undertaken before. I think the total amount of rehearsal time clocked in at just over 25 hours last week, which was completely exhausting but definitely worth it. Directing a large-scale production gives you the scope to do so many exciting things; even the new chancellor Sir Thomas Allen is keen to get involved, and I was very fortunate to be able to discuss it with him in his dressing room at Covent Garden!
I’ve heard a rumour that you’re transforming Castle Great Hall into a theatre- how challenging has that been?
Staging anything in a World Heritage Site requires a lot of thought- not only do we have to preserve the hall and its artefacts, but we also have to keep in mind that people live and eat in the space three times a day. Its a complicated process to organise, but worth it for the magnificent venue.
Are you doing anything radical with the piece or sticking closely with tradition?
The opera is one of the best and well-known pieces of 18th Century theatre, and fits the century so perfectly, that I wanted to remain faithful to the period in terms of costume and design. We have some very authentic costumes which have kindly been hired to us by the National Theatre, so the production should be beautiful, at least!
Do you think Figaro, written in 18th Century Austria, is still relevant to a contemporary British audience?
Figaro is very typical of the 18th Century, yet some its fundamental themes and ideas are still particularly poignant today. The explorations of adultery and a failing marriage are intelligently handled in both the music and libretto; they are still as heart-wrenchingly moving and recognisable today as they would have been 200 years ago. Moreover, some of the characters move way beyond standard 18th century archetypes; the principle maid, Susanna, for example, is deliciously stubborn, independent and aggressive; the character is just as complex and recognisable as any modern character, and is a pleasure to watch.
Sum up the plot in one sentence
On the day of their wedding, Susanna and Figaro, two scheming servants, attempt to trick, confound and beguile their lecherous employer, the Count, from having his way with the bride.
Why should Indigo readers come and see this performance?
The opera is set to be the largest scale production ever mounted by Durham Opera Ensemble, and with a well-known tune at every corner, it is perfect for absolutely anyone, wanting to experience an opera. Dont forget that the performance on Sunday 19th February will hold a Black Tie dress code, to make for a really amazing experience.