Ralph Opera Center and Mozart: a perfect match

A CSU favorite returns to the Griffin Concert Hall when the Ralph Opera Center at Colorado State University presents Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s most famous comic opera, The Marriage of Figaro. featured4-1

Mozart’s musical genius for melody is married with a witty and wry libretto by his frequent collaborator, librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. The action unfolds at breakneck – and frequently complex – speed. The elaborate web of interrelationships and schemes is punctuated by many instances of people hiding behind furniture and characters in disguise as the valet, Figaro, attempts to make his beloved Susanna his wife, much to the chagrin of the Count Almaviva, who is determined to bed her before she is wed.

Often performed at universities, including fully staged productions at CSU in 2007 and 2010, as well as a premiere of a modern-performance edition for chamber winds by CSU’s Richard Frey in 2012, the classic is a must for both vocal and instrumental students’ repertoire. Plus, audiences adore it!

Selected by Tiffany Blake, director of the Ralph Opera Center and coordinator of the Voice Area at CSU, because of the educational opportunity for the students to sing in the Classical style, The Marriage of Figaro includes both secco and accompagnato recitatives, as well as special phrasing considerations.

Figaro also features a variety of vocal combinations including arias, duets, trios, sextets, large group finales and chorus numbers, accompanied by a smaller orchestra. “All of these elements are extremely beneficial to student singers whose technique is not fully developed,” said Blake.

“For our purposes, the piece allowed me to cast many singers at a variety of skill levels,” said Blake, referring to the demanding musicality of the leads where the ability to sustain long legato lines, as well as move the voice flexibly in melismatic singing, is required.

Additionally, the comprimario roles are coveted yet manageable, and include pivotal and buffo characters, as well as smaller roles with short but exquisite moments of melodic beauty. Conversely, there is a chorus that allows younger students to be involved.

“With the double casting, we have a cast of 33 vocal students, which is sizable for an opera production,” added Blake.

In Blake’s opinion, because Figaro was revolutionary at its time – depicting lower-class servants outwitting their aristocratic masters – it is an important historical piece in the repertoire that should be included in students’ studies.

CSU’s setting of The Marriage of Figaro, inspired by Pierre Beaumarchais’ original 1778 play, is Seville, Spain. Elements of Spanish architecture and late 18th century period fashion are present on the stage, but there is no concrete time period being evoked.

The production is in Italian with English super-titles, making this classic performance not only requisite to the performers, but easily accessible to first-time opera goers.

We hope you’ll join us on Thursday, March 31, Friday, April 1, and Saturday, April 2, at 7:30 p.m., as well as Sunday, April 3, at 2 p.m., in Griffin Concert Hall at the University Center for the Arts. Tickets are available at csuartstickets.com

Accessibility 101

Libretto – text

Secco – minimal accompaniment

Accompagnato – orchestral accompaniment

Recitatives – sections between arias that move the plot along and are sung in the pattern of speech

Arias – melodic solo

Legato – smooth

Melismatic – several notes sung per syllable

Comprimario – supporting

Buffo – comedic