The K-State theatre department performed Mozart’s classic opera “The Marriage of Figaro” on March 7-9 in McCain Auditorium. The opera, composed in the 18th century, follows a hectic day in the lives of wealthy, passive-aggressive nobility as Figaro, played by Donovan Woods, senior in applied music, tries to marry his beloved Susanna, played by Aeriel Dodson, junior in applied music, and the rest of their acquaintances try to prevent it for one reason or another.
The opera was performed in English instead of the original Italian, which the audience seemed to appreciate.
“It’s great for the Manhattan audience,” said Charlotte MacFarland, associate professor of theatre.
MacFarland said that larger professional theaters have large projector screens or small LCDs built into the seats to display subtitles for foreign language operas, but since McCain lacks these features, performing the English translation was helpful to the audience.
Elise Poehling, sophomore in applied music, added that it was probably helpful to the cast as well.
“As a performer, it’s easier to learn it in English instead of having to translate it all into English just to know what’s happening,” Poehling said.
Still, those who know the Italian often agreed that English does not fully capture the Italian original.
“Musically, I think it’s harder in English, almost like it’s missing something,” MacFarland said, who has previously performed the part of the countess in Italian.
Poehling called the missing quality “bounciness.”
“When DJ [Davis] was doing his fast parts as Bartolo, those probably would have been easier to learn in Italian,” said Amanda Ellis, junior in music education. “Still, it’s better to see it in English than to have my manuscript and be flipping through the pages in the dark.”
If their goal was to make the opera accessible, Manhattan resident Fin Parrish thought they succeeded. Parrish said “The Marriage of Figaro” was only the second opera she had ever seen.
“It blew the first one out of the water,” Parrish said.
Not normally an opera fan, she still called the production “stellar,” praised the acting and said that she wants to see more.
Despite the opera’s age, audience members seemed to get involved and even laughed at the 200-year-old jokes.
“You can tell that it’s from another period — they’re all in tights, for heaven’s sake — but the story holds up for us,” Ellis said. “It’s still relevant.”
On the other hand, Ellis said that the opera occasionally shows its age when the characters announce things a little too clearly.
“A lot of it seems natural now, but it was pretty revolutionary when it was written,” said Ashalen Sims, the rehearsal pianist for the production. “There’s the line where the countess calls herself the defender of the whole female sex, and then she sings a whole aria about it the next scene. Back then, that was pretty radical in terms of women’s rights. It just shows how advanced Mozart was, way ahead of his time.”
“The Marriage of Figaro” is a comedy of the lighthearted opera buffa style, so it had plenty of jokes for the audience to laugh at. The scene in which the characters discover that Figaro is the illegitimate son of Bartolo and Marcellina seemed to draw more laughter than the rest.
“We find out that Figaro, the only black guy in the cast, is the long lost son of two white people,” Ellis said about the scene. “Of course, there are other jokes in the scene on top of it, so it’s double-funny.”
Poehling added that the overall performance was excellent.
“It’s timeless, in a way,” Poehling said. “The way they were acting, we’d still be able to tell what’s going on. The acting’s great. The blocking’s great. The costmes are great. Everything is just great.”
Other characters and cast members include:
Count Almaviva, played by Drew Hansen, senior in applied music, who has been making unwanted advances toward Susanna; Marcellina, played by Mallory Rathbun, junior in applied music, an older woman seeking to make Figaro marry her as payment for an old loan with her lawyer Bartolo, played by DJ Davis, senior in applied music; Cherubino, played by Sarah Wirtz, junior in applied music, a young lad with an inappropriate crush on the countess, played by Kirsten Hyde, senior in applied music; and Basilio, played by Alex Spence, senior in music education, a musician compelled to gossip and spread chaos.