The newest production to open at Austin Lyric Opera is Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. In this single “day of madness,” Mozart takes us on a laugh-out-loud ride filled with schemes, masquerades and mistaken identities. The infamous Figaro, his bride-to-be, Susanna, and the Countess conspire to expose and embarrass the cunning, skirt-chasing Count. This is opera buffa (comic opera) at its best.
Based on Beaumarchais’ play La folle journée, ou le mariage de Figaro, Austin Lyric Opera's production is a riotously funny staging of the Mozart classic, and includes the return of two cast members with Austin ties: Jamie-Rose Guarrine as Susanna (The Magic Flute, 2011), and Paolo Pecchioli as Figaro (The Italian Girl in Algiers, 2011).
Bass Pecchioli is regular performer at major opera houses around the world and has studied vocal technique with great masters such as Renata Scotto, Carlo Bergonzi and Elio Battaglia. He specializes in the Bel canto repertoire and has sung at the Carnegie Hall, Washington National Opera, Teatro Comunale in Florence and Grange Park in London. In his last performance of Figaro in Austin, Luke Quinton wrote in the Austin American-Statesman than Pecchioli has a face like elastic and moves like Michael Jackson.
Soprano Guarrine is acclaimed for her vibrant vocal beauty, charming stage presence and accomplished musicianship. Opera News has described her as “a natural object of attraction for the men in the play,” her voice as “light, flexible and vibrant — well suited to the part of a scheming maid and romantic ingénue.”
She has played Susanna in the Florentine Opera's production of Figaro as well, and says that it is her favorite role to perform — not only for the gorgeous music and smart, spunky character, but also the timeless plot line. "This story is mainly about couples in love — unrequited love, lust, childhood crushes — and it centers around Susanna and Figaro," says Guarrine.
"All they want to do is get married! I sing a lot of opera that involves gods and goddesses, witches, and all the fantastical creatures and places a writer can imagine. But The Marriage of Figaro is about human relationships, love lost and love found. Every time I'm backstage and that overture starts, I'm so excited to get started because I know it's going to be an awesome night in the theater."
The Fairbanks, Alaska resident adds that it's great to be back in Austin. "Austin is definitely one of my favorite cities to visit. I especially love coming here in January from my winter wonderland where it was negative-15 when I left! My career takes me all over the country, but the Austin cool factor is unprecedented."
There are also a number of Texas natives in the cast. Cherubino is played by Karin Mushegain, born and raised in San Antonio. She made her ALO debut reprising the role of the Minskwoman in Jonathan Dove’s Flight.
Marchelina is played by Lisa Alexander, a long-time and valued ALO chorus member. This is her named debut. Since moving to Austin many years ago, she has also performed with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin, Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble, Texas Choral Consort and Texas Early Music Project.
UT graduate Brett Barnes plays Antonio. Barnes was the Artistic Administrator for ALO and a featured performer in over 22 productions and has been honored as a National Young Artist, a Metropolitan Opera Regional Winner, as well as awarded the Marguerite McCammon Award for Vocal Excellence by Ft. Worth Opera.
Amelia Ciskey plays Barbarina, and is currently a Masters of Voice student at The Butler Opera Center of The University of Texas. Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Richard Buckley will lead the cast, chorus and orchestra in an ALO-owned production. Stage Director Chuck Hudson makes his Austin debut.
The Marriage of Figaro was not received well by the aristocracy when it was first performed in 1786. Nobility did not like to see their positions ridiculed and did not embrace the concept of equality among men or the classes. Making fun of a Count, having a servant outwit him, and openly taking a stand against the class system in society all played into the turmoil that eventually boiled over with the French Revolution.
However, Mozart wrote with a musical voice that celebrated life, love and one’s spirit, and often allowed him to laugh at the hierarchy of society. The result is a work that is charming, multi-dimensional and timeless.
There are a number of special events surrounding the opera:
Performances of The Marriage of Figaro will take place on January 31 and February 2 and 7:30 p.m., and February 3 at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $21.50 to $143.50, and may be purchased online at www.AustinLyricOpera.org or by calling the ALO offices at 512.610.7684. One hour before every performance, ALO’s Education and Production Coordinator, Elizabeth Cooper, gives a free 30-minute talk on the opera that follows.
ALO is also hosting a Pre-opera Dinner in the Kodosky Lounge at The Long Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, February 2. Limited seating by reservation only; tickets are $125. For more information call Dianne Van Hulle, Patron Services Manager, at (512) 610-7684.
Classical 89.5 KMFA will produce a live broadcast for the Sunday matinee on February 3.