Seattle Opera is presenting a bold production of the Marriage of Figaro set against a backdrop of mobile modern sets that help visually illustrate the events within the complicated and twisted plot. The audience is treated to a series of vignettes that comprise the broader story line, cleverly presented using a series of configurable moving compartments on stage.
This is the second time that this particular production of the Marriage of Figaro has been staged. The first production was in New Zealand in 2010. The dynamic set allows both performers and audience members alike to experience the feeling of the characters traversing the spaces of the castle on stage. This minimalist backdrop also frames a stellar cast and shows off Mozart’s genius, highlighting the composer’s signature skill: the integration of the underlying musical score with voices in a rich variety of musical arrangements from arias to choruses.
The Marriage of Figaro was first performed in Vienna in 1786 and is the fruit of the first of three collaborations between Mozart and the well-known Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, who succeeded in getting approval for the libretto for this opera despite the fact that it contained material considered to be off-color at the time. While it is essentially an opera buffa, Mozart’s talent as a composer uplifts this opera to a serious work, and allows an opera-goer to ‘suspend disbelief’ and get directly involved in the lives of all of the characters on stage.
One such character is Susanna, Figaro’s intended bride. The role is more demanding than one would think given that the opera is in the comedic genre. It requires strong acting ability as well as vocal proficiency. The Sicilian soprano Nuccia Focile brings her experience at playing Susanna to the role and infuses it with emotion. Susanna is fiery and passionate, but also has moments that are very serious where she must be focused on attaining her goal of marrying Figaro, a man that she is very much in love with. On opening night Nuccia’s prowess at playing the role was amply demonstrated and recognized by the audience with great enthusiasm.
When interviewed about her participation in the Seattle Opera production, Nuccia stressed that she loves this particular production because it is “all about the people.” Here are some short excerpts from the discussion with Nuccia where she so kindly shared her insights.
What drew you to this production?
I did this production in New Zealand with Aidan Lang in 2010. At the time I was engaged to sing the Countess. So, I discovered this production the first time as the Countess. When I found out that I would do the same production in Seattle as Susanna, I was very happy. I thought that it will give me the opportunity to see the story from a different perspective. It is amazing and I am excited about it. I find it quite challenging. In rehearsal it was a bit confusing at first since I had played the Countess before in this same production, but Susanna is the role that I have performed most. So, coming back to Susanna now after having sung the role of the Countess previously was definitely a challenge. But, I feel quite at home as Susanna now. There is always something new to learn, even though it is an opera you have done many times before.
What do you contribute personally to the production?
I think that the fact that I am Italian probably helps. Since Italian is my native language I think I am able to help the other cast members, especially with the recitative where it helps to really get the rhythm of the language. The way I am viewing Susanna now has really become that I see her as a real human being, especially in this production. She is bubbly, yet she is also a woman in love. She has to look like a real person on stage.
What is it like on the modern set?
This set is definitely so exciting and interesting. You can see what happens in the castle in more than one room at a time from the audience point of view. As performers, it gives us the real feeling of being in the castle and moving from one room to another. Since the set can move, it also gives us as performers a more realistic way of moving from one room to another, entering and exiting a space. It also gives you the feeling of the atmosphere on stage, for example we start with the smaller room, and then move to larger rooms and can feel the difference. So, essentially you feel the journey like you are really in the Castle. It is an amazing concept.