See my review of the opening performance of Washington National Opera's production of Le Nozze di Figaro, published today at DCist:
DCist Goes to the Opera: Marriage of Figaro (DCist, April 26):
Washington National Opera's production of Le Nozze di Figaro continues through May 7, with performances by this first cast on April 26 and 29, and May 2, 4, and 7. Three other performances on April 27, May 1, and May 5 will feature a mostly different second cast.
When the recession forced Washington National Opera to reconfigure its season, the company turned to some tried and true operas. This was somewhat disappointing, as in the revival of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess so quickly after its last appearance, but also made more conventionally minded opera fans happy with the return of some old favorites like Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, which opened on Saturday night at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Premiered in Vienna in 1786, Figaro was the beginning of a legendary collaboration between Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte, who created the libretto from a very current "hit" play by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro, from 1784. The story is, on one hand, quite topical and connected to the issues of its day: the conflicts between the old feudal rights of a decaying nobility and an increasingly resentful oppressed lower class were about to explode in France. On the other, the themes of the opera — jealousy and disappointment in love and marriage, the inequality of the privileged and poor — are as relevant today as they were then, with or without powdered wigs.
Michèle Losier as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Washington National Opera (photo by Karin Cooper)
Mozart's opera neatly continues where Rossini's setting of the first play in Beaumarchais's trilogy, The Barber of Seville (staged by WNO last fall), left off. Count Almaviva has married Rosina, whom he fought so hard to win with the help of Figaro, the factotum who becomes his servant. To her disappointment, Mrs. Almaviva does not go on to live happily ever after following her storybook marriage: life as the countess is mostly about enduring both her husband's jealous rages and, hypocrite that he is, his sexual dalliances with other women. The crux of the opera's story lies in the Count's desire to exercise his droit de cuissage, the supposed right of a lord to sleep with the bride of any of his servants — on her wedding night. As the Figaro and his bride, Susanna, concoct a plan to outwit their less clever master, hijinks ensue. [Continue reading]
Anne Midgette, WNO's satisfying 'Marriage of Figaro' (Washington Post, April 26)