By Mike Telin
The celebrated collaboration between Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte yielded three of the most popular operas in the repertoire. This week, CIM Opera Theater will present The Marriage of Figaro, the first of those operas, beginning on Wednesday, November 4 at 7:30 in the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Kulas Hall. Performances run through Saturday. The opera will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.
Based on Pierre Beaumarchais’ play The Marriage of Figaro, which had been banned in Vienna due to the plot’s lack of moral restraints, the opera is full of comical, manipulative mind games as Count Almaviva neglects his wife, the Countess Rosina Almaviva, in order to pursue her maid Susanna, who is about to marry his valet Figaro. Luckily, everything works out in the end for all parties.
“No offense to the other characters, but I think Susanna happens to be the mastermind of the entire opera,” soprano Caroline Bergan told me during a lively joint conversation with her fellow cast member, bass Daniel Fridley. Bergan, who will sing the role of Susanna, went on to say that her character is incredibly intelligent, cheeky, and always a few steps ahead of everyone else. “She also has a pureness and innocence about her. It’s the combination of innocence and intelligence that sometimes makes the role difficult to play. Also, she can’t always be seen as the mastermind.”
Fridley, who will perform the role of Figaro, said that while his character likes to think that he is the intelligent mastermind, he isn’t. “He’s trying to hatch all of these plots, but every time he tries, it doesn’t quite work out the way he expects,” Fridley said. “Because of that, Figaro ends up getting pulled along through this adventure by Susanna’s plotting more than his own.” It’s a crazy plot to be sure, but Bergan and Fridley both think that the opera is very funny and people will laugh from beginning to end.
Both singers have enjoyed the process of developing their characters with director David Bamberger, who has spent a lot of time focusing on their movements and gestures onstage. “Mr. Bamberger wants a clear divide between how the aristocracy moves and how the servant class moves,” Fridley said, adding that he has had to learn how to be lighter on his feet and “more smiley and mobile.”
The same is true for Susanna. “I too am a servant,” Bergan pointed out. “I also need to be quick on my feet. Whereas the Countess is sometimes in her own world and has moments that are very grand, Susanna is always interacting with someone, so I need to be active even when I’m not singing.” Read the article at ClevelandClassical.com