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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Officiates at ‘The Marriage of Figaro’

The UCSB Opera Theatre is staging a new production of Wolfgang Mozart's great comic opera, The Marriage of Figaro/Le nozze di Figaro,  K. 492 (1786) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall (contingent upon the UCSB Music Building).

Kostis Protopapas, Opera Santa Barbara’s general and artistic director, will conduct the production, with Isabel Bayrakdarian, UCSB assistant professor of voice, directing the stage action, and Benjamin Brecher, UCSB professor of voice, producing and directing the music.

The cast, drawing on the voice program's top graduate students, features Tyler Reece as Count Almaviva, Julie Davies as Countess Almaviva, Naomi Merer as Susanna, Byron Mayes as Figaro, and Kelly Newberry as Cherubino.

The opera's Italian libretto, written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, is based upn the French stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro/The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro.

This play was a sequel to Beaumarchais' hugely successful The Barber of Seville (1773-75) (which had been turned into a quite popular opera in 1782 by Giovanni Paisiello), which reigned comfortably until the Barber of Rossini blasted it into obscurity.

Two years after the Paisello, Beaumarchais brought out The Marriage of Figaro.

Although it was as popular as The Barber of Seville, the new play shared much of its political controversy (the premiere of the earlier play had been held held up two years for mainly political reasons).

Figaro was, if anything, even more anti-aristocrat than Barber. In Vienna, Emperor Joseph II banned it from his vast realms.

After Mozart received the commission for the opera, and hired Da Ponte to write the libretto, they had to submit the libretto to Joseph for vetting.

Since Da Ponte had stripped virtually all of the politics from the play — the class war became the battle of the sexes — and rendered it into elegant, witty Italian poetry, they got the go ahead.

To my taste, Mozart never wrote more beautiful music than in the three operas he did with Da Ponte.

The most beautiful of the three is The Marriage of Figaro. Così fan tutte is richer in ensembles, Don Giovanni the more dramatic and profound, but Figaro simply sweeps me off my feet.

Tickets to The Marriage of Figaro are $20 general admission, $10 for non-UCSB students with ID, $5 for UCSB students with ID, and free to children under 12.

Tickets can be purchased at the door, at the Associated Students Ticket Office window (UCEN Room 1535, across from Corwin Pavilion), by calling the Associated Students Ticket Office, 893.2064, or online at music.ucsb.edu/news/purchase-tickets.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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