The Lyric Opera of Chicago returns to Classical 90.5 this Saturday, May 14 at noon with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Think of this as the prequel to Rossini’s later Barber of Seville; both operas are based on plays, featuring the same characters, by Pierre Beaumarchais, a 19th-century satirist, inventor, diplomat and arms dealer. His plays revolving around Figaro, the Sevillian barber, are satires of European aristocracy; Rossini’s opera softens the satire into a pleasant comedy, but Mozart’s maintains the original’s sharp edge.
In The Barber of Seville, the wily Figaro disguises the hapless, lovesick Count Almaviva as a commoner so he can woo Rosina right under the nose of the young woman’s devious guardian. In Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, the Count and Rosina have been married, and now it’s Figaro’s own wedding day—but now the Count’s arrogance and venality come to the fore as he attempts to seduce Figaro’s bride-to-be, Susanna. It’s up to Figaro and the women to foil the Count’s efforts and teach him a lesson in fidelity.
The Beaumarchais play had been banned in Vienna for licentiousness, but Mozart’s great librettist, the rather Figaro-like Lorenzo da Ponte, managed to get permission to make an Italian translation for Mozart to set to music. The original 1786 production was only a mild success, but The Marriage of Figaro has since taken its place at the center of the opera repertory.
This week, Lyric Opera of Chicago says “I Do” to Mozart with a production featuring Adam Plachetka, Christiane Karg, Amanda Majeski, Luca Pisaroni and Rachel Frenkel. Henry Nanasi conducts. Those names may not be household words, but the Chicago Tribune’s John von Rhein praised this production for its careful casting—“a veritable United Nations of vocal talent”—noting that stage director Barbara Gaines “ignores the dark undercurrent of class warfare in Lorenzo da Ponte's libretto. Instead, she orchestrates the action as a joyous celebration of life and love.”
The broadcast begins this Saturday at noon, and will run close to four hours.