Marriage of Figaro
For Students Only Dress Rehearsal
January 29, 2014
Welcome to Calgary Opera’s 2014-15 season!
Opera is a unique and exciting art form that combines the disciplines of music, drama, literature, dance,
visual, and technical arts like no other.
This guide will give you a backstage tour of all that is opera - terminology, inside information on the
production, the history behind the opera and the composer as well as ideas for including opera in your
We hope that this guide will assist you in making opera connections in your classroom in a fun and
interesting ways as well as to use The Marriage of Figaro as a point of departure for their learning.
Exposure to performing and fine arts helps students develop critical analysis and problem solving skills,
perseverance, and a drive for excellence. The creative skills students develop through the arts carry
them toward new ideas, new experiences and new challenges. Plus, there’s nothing like the excitement
and magic of a live professional performance!
Thank you for giving your students this special opportunity.
Education and Outreach Coordinator
Phone (403) 262-7286, direct line (403) 802-3404
Community Outreach sponsor
THE STUDENT OPERA EXPERIENCE
The more students are prepared for this experience, the more they will get out of it. Knowing the story, the
life and times of the composer and the music is very important to make their opera experience a
Before the Opera
Review the study guide, including the suggested preparation and learning activities, before
deciding on which will be the best fit for your students. Some of the activities/discussions should
be started prior to seeing the opera. Preparing students ahead of time gives them a chance to
view the opera with understanding i.e. history, reviewing, character studies, discussions, etc.
Read the enclosed Marriage of Figaro synopsis, which provides a background and helps
familiarize students and teachers with the story.
Read the history of the opera, composer and director, and familiarize your group with opera
terms (all items in the guide can be reproduced).
Familiarize students with the characters and their corresponding opera voice types (i.e. soprano,
mezzo-soprano, bass, baritone, and tenor.) This enables students to identify them during the
Discuss the characters and plot, and engage students in discussion around the suggested themes.
You may wish to assign students to write a review on the opera – a guideline for writing reviews
is included in this study guide.
You may assign some students to report on singing, characters, orchestra, costumes, scenery etc.
after the dress rehearsal.
Make sure that meeting places and times are clear at the Jubilee Auditorium.
Review the audience expectations in our Attending the Opera section.
Some teachers have found it advisable to give out assigned seat tickets at a meeting place in the hall just
before a performance, as lost tickets cannot be replaced.
Attending the Opera
There’s nothing more exciting than attending an opera! You’ll be a guest at the final dress rehearsal of
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Here’s what you’ll need to know about attending
You may notice a long table with lights and people sitting behind it in the centre of the main floor of the
auditorium. Seated in this area is the production team: Director, Lighting Designer, Fight Director, and
Choreographer (among others.) They’ll be taking notes and communicating with the many people
backstage who help make all of the operatic magic happen. They’ll be able to talk to the crew so
changes can be made. Should anything need some adjustments, the rehearsal might be stopped or a
part repeated to make sure that it is perfect.
SHOW SOME R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Unlike actors on television or in the movies, performers onstage are very aware of the audience. They
want to share their love of performing with you. Everything you do in the audience affects what
happens on stage. You can show them how much you appreciate their work and the opportunity to
come to the rehearsal by being as quiet as possible.
Show your respect for the cast, musicians, the production team, and everyone in the theatre by not
talking. Give the artists and the production your full attention!
Here’s a list of DOs and DON’Ts so that everyone in the
theatre can enjoy the opera:
› Use the bathrooms before the rehearsal begins or at intermission.
› Enter and exit the theatre in an orderly fashion.
› Think about what makes a good audience member.
› Turn off your cell phones and all electronic devices.
› Applaud when the conductor enters and bows, then again after the overture.
› Applaud after the arias as well as after the performance; you can shout “Bravo!” for a man, “Brava!”
for a woman, and “Bravi!” for more than one person, or the whole performance.
› Enjoy the rehearsal. You’ve worked too hard preparing for the rehearsal not to!
› When you are seated, you may be able to see the orchestra tuning their instruments in the orchestra
› Keep movement and voices down to a minimum as this is a live dress rehearsal performance.
› Keep food, drinks and gum outside of the auditorium – the Jubilee Auditorium has great acoustics so
every sound can be heard in the theatre. Bottled water is allowed.
When the house lights dim, it’s time to:
› Turn off all cell phones, iPods, and other electronic devices. The use of cameras or recording devices is
› After the curtain goes down and the lights go up, the intermission (20 minutes) begins. Now is the time
to talk, eat (in the lobby) and use the washroom.
› Be silent if the performance has to stop for a few moments (this is a performance, but also a working
rehearsal so it may be necessary to stop at times).
› If you must use the washroom during the performance, please be accompanied by an adult supervisor.
The ushers will let you in again but you will have to wait until there is an appropriate break in the opera.
Many times this is not until intermission.
The History of Opera
Theatrical performances that use music, song and dance to tell a story can be found in many cultures.
Opera is just one example of music drama.
Have you ever wondered where opera got its start? Back in the late 1500s during the height of the
Renaissance, a group of men called the Florentine Camerata got together to create a new and moving
theatrical experience. They wanted to recreate what the ancient Greeks did during their legendary
dramas. The result was something entirely new – opera!
Most of the early operas were based on Greek myths. The first opera that we know of was called Dafne
by Jacopo Peri in 1598, but the most famous opera of this early period that is still performed today is
Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607). Certain basic ingredients were included in opera: songs,
instrumental accompaniments, costumes, dance, and scenery. We still use all of these ingredients
today! The early operas were first performed in the grand courts of Italian nobility, but soon opera
became popular with the public, too. As it became all the rage, productions became more lavish.
Soon, theatres began to be built just to mount operas. These theatres had elaborate stage machinery to
create special effects like flying actors or crumbling buildings. Not everyone embraced the new form of
theatre. Some critics thought that all of the stage antics in opera detracted from the music and drama.
Some people even believed that seeing too much comedy in opera could make you immoral.
During the Baroque period (about 1600 to 1750), Italian opera
spread all over Europe. The Italian style of opera was so popular
that even non-Italians wrote in this style. For example George
Frederic Handel (1685–1759) was a German-born composer who
lived and worked in England. His operas, like Julius Caesar (1724),
were written in the Italian language and used an Italian style of
music. The only nation to create its own national operatic style was
France. Ballet played a large role in the French culture, and operas
often included ballets in the middle of the opera. The most famous
George Frederic Handel (1685-1759)
French Baroque opera composers were Jean-Baptiste Lully (16321687) and Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764).
The 18th century was full of change for both Europe and opera. This time period was known as the Age
of Enlightenment. People were starting to talk about new forms of government and organization in
society, especially the ever-growing middle class. Music displayed this new thinking as composers
dropped the Baroque era’s complicated musical style for simpler, more emotional music. In less-flashy
music, characters could express their thoughts and feelings more believably. One of the first operas to
use this new style was Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (1762).
In 1789 the French Revolution changed the world. The first modern democracies were born, and to
match the times in which they were created, audiences wanted to see characters like themselves on
stage, not gods and goddesses. They also wanted to see issues that were important to them. Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786) featured a timely story of aristocratic class struggles
that had both servants and nobility in lead roles. The ideals of the Enlightenment also came to the stage
in Ludwig van Beethoven‘s only opera, Fidelio, a story about equality and freedom.
In the 1800s opera continued to grow. The Italian tradition continued in the bel canto movement, which
literally translates to “beautiful singing.” These operas asked performers
to sing complicated groups of fast notes in the melodies. The most famous
bel canto composers were Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868), Gaetano
Donizetti (1797–1848), and Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835). Their operas,
like Rossini’s popular comedies The Barber of Seville (1816) and Cinderella
(1817), are still some of the most popular operas performed today. By the
middle of the century, the Romantic Movement led many composers to
champion their own national identities. As a result, operas in languages
other than Italian became more common; new works often reflected pride
in a country’s people, history, and folklore. German operas like Carl Maria
von Weber’s Der Freischütz (1821), Russian operas like Mikhail Glinka’s A
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Life for the Tsar (1836) and French operas like Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les
Huguenots (1836) started to be performed across Europe. By using nationalism in his operas like
Nabucco (1842), Italian Giuseppe Verdi became a national hero.
In Germany Richard Wagner took Romanticism to the extreme in a four-part operatic miniseries based
on Norse mythology, The Ring of the Nibelung
(1876), which takes over 15 hours to perform! The
operatic stereotype of the singer in the Viking
helmet comes from these operas.
Opera in 20th century became even more
experimental. Composers like Giacomo Puccini (La
Bohème, 1896), Claude Debussy (Pelléas et
Mélisande, 1902), Richard Strauss (Salome, 1905),
Johanna Heinze, Mezzo-Soprano, 1907
and Benjamin Britten (Peter Grimes, 1945) evolved
their national styles. Others, horrified by the
destruction of World War I (1914-1919) and other aspects of modern life, created music that was new
and drastically dissonant. These operas often explored either dark psychological topics (Wozzeck by
Alban Berg, 1925), or simple and absurd (The Rake’s Progress by Igor Stravinsky, 1951). American opera
had a huge hit with George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935) which included jazz and blues
musical styles. Not only did American composers embrace popular music in opera but also a repetitive,
hypnotic style called minimalism. American composer Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach (1976) is the
popular example of minimalism in opera.
Today, opera is still growing and changing every day. Calgary Opera has commissioned many new works,
including Moby-Dick (a co-commission with Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera, San Francisco Opera, and
the State Opera of South Australia) by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, The Inventor by Bramwell Tovey
and John Murrell, Hannaraptor by Allan Gilliland and Val Brandt, Frobisher by John Estacio and John
Murrell, and Filumena by John Estacio and John Murrell. The presentation and creation of new
repertoire is vital to the future of opera, and it is important to look for the next Verdi or Puccini of our
Although opera is one of the oldest musical art forms, it still remains and expands today. From the old
favorites to the new experimental works, opera continues to be a moving art form of the people.
ACTIVE LEARNING ACTIVITY #1
The picture on this page shows several patrons and
famous opera characters on their way to attend an
opera at the theatre. Now picture yourself in their
shoes. On a separate piece of paper, write a story as
if you are one of these people. Think about your trip
to the performance. What will the opera be like? You
may want to mention going to the Jubilee Auditorium
or attending the opera. What will you wear? How will
you and your classmates act? At what time will you meet your classmates? How many classmates will
attend? Will you have a special dinner before the opera? If so, where? Will the opera be exciting and
entertaining? Share your thoughts here and compare your stories with your classmates.
ACTIVE LEARNING ACTIVITY #2
Write a Review or Critique of the
One of the best ways to encourage critical
thinking of a performing arts production is to
encourage students’ honesty and draw out
detailed opinions. A productive evaluation
session - spoken, written, visual or dramatized should follow this basic ‘how-to’ outline below.
On the internet, students can find many reviews
of The Marriage of Figaro from other opera
companies’ performances to use as a guideline
Guidelines for writing a review
When writing an opera review you can focus on
many different elements, but keep in mind the
acting, singing, technical aspects, orchestration,
and the overall view of the performance.
Performance of the Singers
The acting and singing are probably the most
important aspects of the opera. It is a good idea
to familiarize yourself with the opera and its
characters before you go see it. Make sure you
know all of the characters’ names and the
singers who are playing them; the study guide
or the Calgary Opera website is an ideal place to
find all this information.
Did they bring the music to life? Could you see
and hear the emotion while they sang? Did they
interact well with others on stage?
Did any particular performer stand out to you
and why? How did the singer communicate
his/her character? Did you feel that the singer’s
character was believable? Sympathetic? How
well are they giving and taking focus?
It has been said that if the technical aspect of
the performance becomes noticeable, then it is
not effective. Keep in mind that the sets, lights,
sound, make-up, and costumes are there to
enhance the performance.
Were the costumes appropriate to the time
period? Did they enhance the characters?
Did the lighting design communicate time of day
and/or mood? Did it cast unflattering or
distracting shadows? Was the set complex or
simple? How did this help or hinder the
What do you notice about the make-up worn by
the singers on stage that differs from what
people might wear out in public? Did it age a
singer? Make them appear more youthful?
Was it done well?
Reviewing the musical performance is a tricky
thing, and most reviewers continue to develop
their ear for the music and knowledge of the art
form their entire lives.
Did you enjoy the music? Did you feel that the
singers performed it smooth and effortlessly?
What was your favourite musical moment?
What part did you feel had the power to move
So in conclusion, remember the singing, acting,
music, the technical and the overall view, and
you’ll have written a successful theatre review.
Try to keep in mind that to be a theatre critic
you often have to be critical, so if you feel that
something was badly done include that in your
review. Constructive criticism can be helpful.
Keep these things in mind when writing your
review and it will be great. Have fun!
The Language of Opera
Act - Main sections of a play or opera.
Aria - A solo song sung in an opera.
Audience - People who watch a performance
and sit in the “house” or auditorium.
Ballet - Dance set to music within an opera.
Blocking - Action on stage.
Character - Person who is part of the opera’s
Chorus - Music composed for a group of singers
or the name of a group of singers in an opera.
Overture - A piece of instrumental music played
at the beginning of an opera.
Program - Booklet that contains information
about the opera, composer, performers, and
the opera company.
Recitative - Words that are sung in the rhythm
of natural speech.
Rehearsal - Time when singers/actors practice
with or without the orchestra; time when
musicians practice together with the conductor.
Scene - Segments of action within the acts of an
Conductor - Person who rehearses and leads
Types of Singers
Duet - A song performed by two singers.
Soprano - Highest pitched female voice.
Libretto - the words of the opera.
Mezzo-Soprano - Female voice between
soprano and contralto.
Opera - a musical work in one or more acts,
made for singers and instrumentalists.
Contralto – Lowest pitched female voice
Opera Buffa - Funny, light opera.
Tenor - Highest pitched male voice.
Opera Seria - Serious, dramatic opera.
Baritone - Male voice between tenor and bass.
Orchestra - A group of musicians who play
together on various musical instruments.
Bass - Lowest pitched male voice.
ACTIVE LEARNING ACTIVITY # 3
Connect the terms
1. Opera Seria
A. Dance spectacle set to music.
B. Highest pitched woman’s voice.
C. Dramatic text adapted for opera.
D. Low female voice.
E. Comic opera.
F. A dramatic or comedic musical work in
which singing is the essential factor; very little
G. Opera with dramatic and intense plots.
H. Music composed for a singing group.
I. A song written for two performers to sing
14. Opera Buffa
J. A group of musicians who play together on
various musical instruments.
K. Highest pitched man’s voice.
L. A musical style in which the words are
spoken in the rhythm of natural speech.
M. Male voice between bass and tenor.
N. A piece of music originally designed to be
played before an opera or musical play.
O. Deepest male voice.
P. Elaborate solo in an opera or oratorio.
Q. Main division of a play or opera.
What in the World?
Life in the Age of Enlightenment
What is the Age of Enlightenment?
The Age of Enlightenment was a period around the 1700s where Western culture began to turn from
traditional social, cultural, philosophical, scientific, and intellectual views to embrace views based on
rationalism, or the belief that what people think or do should be based on reason and knowledge, not
just tradition, religion or emotions.
What changes did the Enlightenment bring?
Quite a lot! Some of the biggest changes were the American and French Revolutions, overthrowing the
ruling classes in favour of new regimes which better supported the “Common Man.” People began to
see that they were not so different from nobles, and demanded to be treated better too. Some wanted
equal rights for men and women of all races, freedom of expression and the press, the end of religious
involvement in political process, and education. Still, some more moderate people just wanted to
update and reform old structures of power and faith. All over the Western world, the Enlightenment
looked very, very different.
What’s the deal with The Marriage of Figaro?
Did you know that Mozart’s The Marriage
of Figaro was based on a play? This play,
called “La Folle Journée, ou Le Mariage de
Figaro” (The Mad Day, or the Marriage of
Figaro) was written by Pierre
Beaumarchais (1732-1799) in 1778. Le
Mariage de Figaro was the second of
three plays in a series he wrote based
around the character of Figaro, a very
clever servant who repeatedly outwits the
schemes of noblemen in favor of true love
and virtue. In fact, the very first play of
this series was made into another opera
by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) called Il barbiere di Siviglia, or The Barber of Seville, in which young
Figaro becomes a barber in order to help an enamored Count marry a beautiful young women who is
coveted by her older guardian. This is the one we hear in opera houses today. Prior to Mozart
composing The Marriage of Figaro, another composer, Giovanni Pasiello (1740-1816), had already
created an operatic version of The Barber of Seville… so it made sense to compose the sequel!
Only one problem, however…
The Marriage of Figaro was a very controversial work! Even despite the fact that Beaumarchais’ The
Marriage of Figaro was written in the late 1770s, it took almost ten years before it was allowed by
censors to be performed at the Parisian Comédie-Française, a historical French theatre. Why was it
controversial? Noblemen and noblewomen of the time were nervous about “class conflict” between the
upper and lower classes, the nobility and the common folk of France… the French Revolution would
occur in the near future, around 1789, and the unrest in the country was palpable. As far as French
nobles could tell, the play was encouraging conflict between the classes; the servants were often
smarter and kinder than their masters, and weren’t afraid to confront them head-on for their bad
behavior. By the time The Marriage of Figaro (the play) was performed at the Comédie-Française, they
had to cut a great deal of it, including much of the character Marceline and her strong, feminist attitude,
saying no Parisian actress was capable of acting the way the part required.
So the librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, had his work cut out for him. First thing to do was make it a comedy,
so people wouldn’t take it seriously, and take out a lot of the more revolutionary parts so that the
Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II would allow for its production. The opera that you will see performed at the
Jubilee will be very much like Beaumarchais’ play, but a much lighter, funnier, and less controversial
This lighter, more comedic opera form of the play was a huge success, with five encores during the
premiere, and seven on its second performance. The Emperor Joseph II himself had to ban encores, so
these evenings wouldn’t drag on and on! Mozart and da Ponte went on to make more operas together,
including Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte.
Many years later in France, Paris Opera decided to capitalize on the great fame of the work by playing Le
Mariage de Figaro in Paris (even though the now-deceased Mozart was not even a Frenchman!) Rather
comically, however, now the opposite problem was presented to those looking to perform this work.
Now that the country was in the midst of a Revolution, and the opera was not revolutionary enough for
those who would go see it, it wasn’t in keeping with the popular works of the time! What to do? So the
opera buffa was turned into an opera-comique, and a hybrid of both Beaumarchais’ play and of Mozart
and da Ponte’s opera – the songs stayed the same, but the recitatives were replaced with the more
revolutionary text of the play. Beaumarchais himself was brought in to add in more of his play, and
eventually this work was expanded to even include ballet music, and arias from other works by Mozart!
Such is the strange history of history – and art – trying to keep up with the times. History – and
Words of Revolution
One of the most revolutionary parts of Beaumarchais’ play is a speech by Figaro in the fifth act. While he
waits in secret with Doctor Bartolo to see if Susanna stays true to her vows and refuses the advances of
the Count, Figaro gives a passionate speech against the Count attempting to seduce his wife. Essentially,
Figaro denounces his master, asks “What makes HIM so special? Why am I just a normal guy, who has to
struggle and fight just to get by, when the Count, who is no smarter, more virtuous, more kind than me,
gets everything he wants, money, power, and now my wife?” Asking what made nobles deserve their
riches and calling them “pompous” as well as “vile” and questioning their value made the nobles very
nervous indeed that their subjects would soon start wondering the same thing…
“No, my very worthy Lord and Master, you have not got her yet—What! Because you are a great Man,
you fancy yourself a great Genius.—Which way?—How came you to be the rich and mighty Count
Almaviva? Why truly, you gave yourself the Trouble to be born! While the obscurity in which I have been
cast demanded more Abilities to gain a mere Subsistence than are requisite to govern Empires. And
what, most noble Count, are your Claims to Distinction, to pompous Titles, and immense Wealth, of
which you are so proud, and which, by Accident, you possess? For which of your Virtues? Your Wisdom?
Your Generosity? Your Justice?—The Wisdom you have acquired consists in vile Arts, to gratify vile
Passions; your Generosity is lavished on your hireling Instruments, but whose Necessities make them far
less Contemptible than yourself; and your Justice is the inveterate Persecution of those who have the Will
and the Wit to resist your Depredations.” But this has ever been the Practice of the little Great; those
they cannot degrade, they endeavour to crush…
… At Seville I found a Lord mad to marry his Mistress; my Wit procured him what his could not,
a Wife; and, in return, he gratefully endeavours to Seduce mine—Strange concatenation of
In the opera, Da Ponte removed this speech so that Figaro instead expressed his
disappointment in women and their disloyalty to their men, as he now suspects Susanna may
Historic and Cultural Events in 1786
Listed below are some historic and cultural events that took place in 1786.
The outward bound East Indiaman Halsewell is wrecked on the south coast of England in
a storm with only 74 of more than 240 on board surviving.
Birth of Wilhelm Grimm, author of famous Grimm fairytales.
Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro premieres in Vienna.
First commercially-made ice cream sold in New York.
An earthquake-caused landslide dam on the Dadu River gives way, killing 100,000 in
the Sichuan province of China.
Caroline Herschel discovers a comet (the first discovered by a woman!)
Mont Blanc is climbed for the first time by Dr. Michel-Gabriel Paccard and Jacques
Birth of Davy Crockett, American frontiersman.
November 30 Peter Leopold Joseph of Habsburg-Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany, abolishes the death
penalty in his country, making it the first state without one. November 30th has since
been recognized around the world as Cities for Life Day.
The last reliably recorded wolf in Ireland is hunted down and killed near Mount
Leinster, County Carlow, for killing sheep.
ACTIVE LEARNING #4
Write a one page story about what it would have been like to be a member of the aristocracy in France
during the 1780s, just before the French Revolution.
ACTIVE LEARNING #5
Research and Report
A. Mozart premiered The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna On May 1, 1786. Find an image of the opera
house in Vienna in which this work premiered (the Burgtheatre), and discuss its history and
B. The fashion during the 1780s in
France was strongly influenced by
Marie Antoinette at a time when
she was beginning to rebel against
the structure of court life. Some
significant changes occurred in
fashion at this time. Research and
report on French fashion during the
The French Queen Marie Antoinette
About the composer
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27 1756- December
5 1791), baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus
Theophilus Mozart, is probably one of the most wellknown and highly regarded Classical-era composers
recognized today. Born to Leopold and Anna Maria
Mozart, Wolfgang was, from a very, very young age,
trained to be a prolific composer and performer by his
very accomplished musician father. While the matter is
up for debate in many scholarly circles, his earliest known
composition was written when Mozart was only five
years old! Mozart also had a sister, Marie Anna (known as
Nannerl), who was in many ways as talented and
promising as her brother… unfortunately, as a woman of
her time, Nannerl’s talents were not as celebrated as her brother’s. In their formative years, Nannerl
and Wolfgang were taken on tours around Europe as a performing act, charming nobles with their talent
and becoming somewhat like celebrities. These trips were hard and even dangerous for the family, as
they fell ill quite frequently and were often travelling in discomfort for great distances. Wolfgang’s
growing talents were undeniable, and as he was taken around Europe he was met by many talented
composers such as Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach (prolific composer and son of Johann Sebastian Bach, the
famous Baroque composer). His first symphony was composed when Mozart was only eight years old,
and after hearing Gregario Allegri’s Misere performed only twice in the Sistine Chapel, the young
composer transcribed the whole work – from memory alone! – and thus created an unauthorized copy
of some very secret and special Vatican property. At 14 Mozart’s first opera was performed (Mitridate,
re di Ponto) and led to further operatic commissions and successes.
Eventually, Mozart found employment in the Salzburg court of Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus
Colloredo. While employed here, Mozart composed some of his most celebrated compositions,
including his violin and piano concerti. Still, the young composer was not entirely satisfied with this work
– the pay was low, and there was little opportunity for him to compose more operas, on which he was
particularly keen. While he would leave Salzburg to find better employment, there was no luck, and in
1777 Mozart resigned from his position and travelled around Europe to find something more suitable for
him. He looked through Mannheim, Munich, Paris, and many other places, but could not find anything
that would work for him, so the young composer returned to Salzburg as a court organist and
concertmaster, despite his displeasure with the city.
In March of 1781, Mozart was summoned to Vienna for the celebrations of the ascension of Joseph II to
the Austrian throne. Tensions with Mozart’s employer reached their peak when the Archbishop refused
to allow Mozart to perform (for a sizeable fee) for the Countess Thun, and treated him in a way that
Mozart felt was disproportionate to his gifts and abilities. When Mozart attempted to quit, he wasn’t
allowed to. After a month, Mozart was given, quite literally, the “boot” by the Archbishop’s steward, and
Mozart moved to Vienna as a freelance composer and performer. At the same time, Mozart’s
relationship with his father grew increasingly strained – the young composer wished to move to Vienna,
his father begged him to reconcile with his employer. At the culmination of Mozart’s dismissal, he found
himself free from both his employer, and freer from the wishes of his father.
Mozart quickly grew a reputation in Vienna as a fabulous musician and composer. He also met and
married Constanze Weber, who his father was not entirely in favor of, and who Mozart had great
difficulty with obtaining permission to marry. They married the day before his letter of consent arrived
in the mail! Of their six children, only two survived infancy, Karl Thomas Mozart, and Franz Xavier
Wolfgang Mozart. Over the years, Mozart discovered the great Baroque composers, J.S. Bach and
George Handel, who later inspired his musical language and style. Mozart also met the great Joseph
Haydn, and the two became good friends. Mozart dedicated six quartets to Haydn, and Haydn greatly
admired his skill – as he told Leopold Mozart, “I tell you before God, and as an honest man, your son is
the greatest composer known to me by person and repute, he has taste and what is more the greatest
skill in composition.”
As Mozart’s fame and stature grew around Vienna, he also began to live very comfortably. Children
were sent to expensive schools, the family kept servants and lived in the poshest of apartments.
Unfortunately, with this extravagance the Mozart family put very little aside for the future, and did little
to prepare themselves for coming hardships. In 1784, Mozart also became a Freemason, and it played a
large part in Mozart’s social and working life.
While Mozart had composed several operas over the years, it wasn’t until his collaboration with
librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte that his operatic career really took off. First, in 1786 The Marriage of Figaro
was a great success in its Viennese premiere, and in 1787 the pair did their second collaboration, Don
Giovanni, an opera based on the famous character of Don Juan, an immoral lothario who ruins hearts
and lives, and pays the ultimate price. Both The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni are still played in
opera houses around the world to this day.
In 1787, Mozart became the chamber composer of Emperor Joseph II. This was only a part-time
appointment, but the Emperor hoped it would keep the composer and his talents in Vienna. That same
year, Ludwig van Beethoven came to Vienna in the hopes of studying with Mozart, though that
unfortunately never came to fruition.
At the end of the 1780s, Mozart’s life started to take a turn for the worse. Less performing opportunities
and subsequent money made their way to the composer – the Austro-Turkish War had negatively
impacted the spending ability of the noblesse and Viennese musicians felt those ill effects. The Mozart
family moved into the suburbs of Vienna and began to borrow more and more money to support their
lifestyle – many letters begging for loans are still kept from the unfortunate composer. Mozart wrote
less and less; only a few more symphonies and his final collaboration with da Ponte, Così fan tutte,
premiered in 1790. Mozart travelled (in vain) to Leipzig, Berlin, Dresden, and more cities throughout
Europe to find more opportunity and more income – sadly, nothing significant availed itself to him and
his circumstances worsened further still.
In 1791, Mozart was very productive. In this year he composed some of his greatest works – the opera
The Magic Flute, for instance, or his great clarinet concerto, his string quartets, and most notably, his
unfinished Requiem. There is some evidence that his financial situation was beginning to improve. And
then, Mozart became sick. He was in Prague for the premier of his opera La clemenza di Tito, and his
health simply did not improve. He became bedridden, and while he was nursed by family and doctors,
and attempted to finish his Requiem. On December 5th, 1791, Mozart passed away from his illness. As
was the Viennese custom, Mozart was buried in a “common grave with few to no mourners in
attendance. This “common grave” simply means that it was an individual grave for a “common person,”
not a member of the nobility, and would be excavated within a decade for re-use. The cause of Mozart’s
death is unknown, but many have speculated that it could have been a fever, infection, or even mercury
Though Mozart’s funeral was small and simple, many memorial concerts and services were held in
Vienna as well as Prague, and following his passing, Mozart’s stature rose dramatically, and many of his
works were performed in his memory throughout Europe after his death. One of the more popular
modern works on the life of Mozart is the movie Amadeus (1984), in which Mozart is shown as a bawdy
and frustrating young genius who is eventually destroyed by another composer of the time, Antonio
Salieri. This is a great fictionalization of the great composer’s life, and not indicative of his personality,
history, habits and relationships.
About the librettist
Lorenzo da Ponte (March 10 1749- August 17 1838), was born
Emanuele Conegliano to the widower Geronimo Conegliano
who, in order to remarry, converted himself to Roman
Catholicism and took a new name for his family. Thus,
Emanuele became known as Lorenzo Da Ponte. Young Lorenzo
took to schooling and, in 1770 took Minor Orders and became
a Professor of Literature, and then became an ordained priest
in 1773. At this point, Da Ponte began to write poetry, and
moved to Venice to live as a teacher of languages. Although Da
Ponte was a priest, he was not a very chaste man, and in 1779
was banished from Venice for (allegedly) living in and arranging
the entertainments of a brothel!
Da Ponte then moved to Gorizia, Austria, and was engaged as a
writer there. Soon after Da Ponte found work translating
libretti at a theatre, and also was introduced to the thenpopular composer, Antonio Salieri. With his help, Da Ponte became the librettist of the Italian Theatre in
Vienna. He also found a patron, Raimund Wetzlar von Plankenstern, who was also the benefactor of
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and as court librettist Da Ponte would often collaborate with composers
such as Mozart and Salieri. All of the librettist’s works were adaptations of pre-existing plots, with the
exception of a few such as Cosi fan tutte. Many, such as The Marriage of Figaro, were adapted and
molded to suit the purposes of the composer, occasion and casting needs.
After the death of Austrian Emperor Joseph II in 1790, Da Ponte lost his patron, and was dismissed from
the Imperial Service in 1791. As he could still not return to Venice, Da Ponte then travelled to London
and, in 1803, became the librettist of the King’s Theatre, until he fled to the United States in 1805 due to
debt and bankruptcy. In America, Da Ponte first lived in New York, then Pennsylvania, where he ran a
grocery store and gave lessons in Italian. Once returned to New York, Da Ponte opened a bookstore, and
eventually became the first professor of Italian literature at Columbia College. He also introduced opera
to New York, and produced a performance of Don Giovanni in 1825. He also introduced the music of
Gioachino Rossini to America. In 1828, at the then-grand age of 79, Da Ponte became a U.S. citizen, and
at 84 he founded the New York Opera Company, which only lasted two seasons before being disbanded
(it was, however, the predecessor of both the New York Academy of Music and the New York
Da Ponte died in 1838 in New York, and an enormous funeral was held for him in St Patrick’s Cathedral.
His collaborations with Mozart still are played around the world to this day.
ACTIVE LEARNING #6
- Clip #1: The Marriage of Figaro Overture
This short work, without any singing, is called an “overture,” or the opening of the work. Its
main purpose is to set the tone of the opera, and contained the main theme of the opera. What
does this work say to you about the opera? Is it a comedy, tragedy?
- Clip #2: Bass aria, Non più andrai
This is an aria written for the bass voice of Figaro. The misbehaving Cherubino, having been
caught in the bedroom of Susanna by the Count (who cannot punish him as he was there
himself under suspicious pretence), is to be sent away to the Count’s military regiment in Seville.
In this aria, Figaro is teasing the young man, making fun of his future and how different it will be
from the life of leisure he has enjoyed in court. Can you hear any of the military-sounding
themes written into this piece as Figaro sings about being in the military?
- Clip #2: Mezzo-Soprano aria, Voi che sapete
This aria, sung by the mezzo-soprano Cherubino, is the love song written by him (as it is a pants
role, this character is played by a woman, dressed as a man) for the Countess. Translated, the
lyrics say, “You who know what love is, women, see whether it's in my heart/ What I am
experiencing I will tell you, It is new to me and I do not understand it/ I have a feeling full of
desire, that now, is both pleasure and suffering/ At first frost, then I feel the soul burning, And in
a moment I'm freezing again./ Seek a blessing outside myself, I do not know how to hold it, I do
not know what it is./ I sigh and moan without meaning to, Throb and tremble without knowing/
I find no peace both night or day, But even still, I like to languish/ You who know what love
is, Women, see whether it's in my heart.”
How does the music show what Cherubino is singing about? Does it reflect the mood of the
singer, his hopes and dreams? Why do you think Mozart decided to make this character a
About the Production
Late 18th Century Spain, wedding day of Susanna and Figaro.
Act I: A room in the servants’ quarters, in the morning.
Figaro is making preparations for the new quarters he will share with Susanna once they are married.
When Susanna hears of this is she objects that the room is too close to the Count’s. Figaro is outraged
when Susanna explains that the Count is planning to exercise his “droit du Seigneur,” an old custom
which gives a lord of a manor the right to take a servant to his bed before she becomes a bride. Figaro
vows to upset his master’s plans.
Dr. Bartolo and Marcellina arrive. Marcellina confides that Figaro once promised to marry her if he did
not repay her loan. She plans to hold him to that promise, and Bartolo agrees to help her. Susanna
briefly trades insults with the departing Marcellina. Cherubino, the pageboy, rushes in and begs Susanna
to help him. He laments over his love for the Countess, and all women for that matter.
Unexpectedly, the Count enters and Cherubino hides. The Count urges a rendezvous with Susanna, but
they hear the approach of Basilio and the Count must hide as well. Basilio gossips about Cherubino’s
infatuation with the Countess, prompting the Count to burst out in anger. Basilio quickly denies the
rumour and claims that the page dotes on all women. Basilio then inadvertently exposes Cherubino.
Annoyed, the Count leaves after ordering Cherubino to join the army in Seville. Figaro tries his best to
cheer up Cherubino.
Act II: The Countess’s room, later that morning.
The Countess is told about the Count’s advances and calls on the power of love to bring her husband
back to her. Susanna enters and reassures her mistress that the Count must still love her, for he was
jealous of Cherubino. Figaro arrives with the news that the Count is plotting with Marcellina to stop the
wedding but he, Figaro, has a plan.
Figaro proposes to distract the Count with a note saying the Countess has a lover. If the Count is still
eager to have Susanna, then Cherubino will disguise himself as her and rendezvous with the Count. The
Countess can then “discover” the Count and shame him into good behaviour. Figaro leaves while
Cherubino is outfitted. When Susanna steps out, the Count, who has received Figaro’s note, demands to
enter. Cherubino ducks into an adjoining room and locks the door. The Count hears a crash and accuses
the Countess of hiding her lover. She claims it is Susanna. The Count insists that the Countess go with
him to fetch some tools to break the door down.
When they leave, Cherubino unlocks the door and escapes out the window and Susanna locks herself in
the room. When the Count and Countess return, the Count swears to kill the boy, but when the door is
opened Susanna walks out instead.
Figaro enters to announce that the wedding festivities are about to begin, but just then Antonio, the
gardener, interrupts. Antonio has seen a young man leap out of the window and ruin his flowerbeds.
Figaro says that it was he who leapt out of the window. Antonio shows Cherubino’s army commission
papers which were found lying on the ground. Amid the confusion, Marcellina enters with Bartolo to
press her claims against Figaro. The suspicious Count seizes the opportunity and decides that he will
hear Marcellina’s case, effectively stalling the wedding.
Act III: A large hall, a few hours later.
The Count is alone. Susanna and the Countess enter unseen. The Countess tells her maid to make an
assignation with the Count for that evening. The Countess plans to go in Susanna’s place but Susanna
must not tell anyone, not even Figaro. Susanna makes the arrangement but when Figaro enters the
Count hears the maid reassuring Figaro that all will be well. Figaro, Marcellina and Bartolo enter with
Don Curzio, a lawyer. The law is plain: Figaro must marry Marcellina. As Figaro is protesting, Marcellina
sees a birthmark on his arm, which identifies him as her long-lost son, and Bartolo is the father. They all
embrace and decide to have a double wedding!
Barbarina, one of Cherubino’s flirtations, plans to disguise the pageboy as a girl so he will not have to go
to Seville. Antonio arrives with the count, complaining that Cherubino has not yet left for Seville and
they leave to investigate. Meanwhile, Susanna and the Countess dictate a letter that will ensure the
Count’s presence at the rendezvous. As they seal the letter with a pin, Barbarina and the other girls
enter. Antonio finds them and unmasks Cherubino. Barbarina defends him cleverly, undermining the
Count. Figaro arrives and the wedding march begins. The Countess persuades the Count to sit beside
her. When the bridal couples return, Susanna secretly passes the note to the Count. He is delighted to
get the message, and invites everyone to celebrate.
Act IV: In the garden, late that night.
Barbarina, while searching for the pin that the Count has dropped, meets Figaro, who learns the
significance of the pin. He believes that Susanna is really going to meet the Count and complains about
the duplicity of women to Marcellina. They both leave but Marcellina goes to warn Susanna that Figaro
knows of the assignation. Susanna and the Countess enter each dressed in the other’s dress. Susanna
sings a love song, aware that Figaro is listening.
The Count sees his wife. Believing she is Susanna, he starts to woo her, and they slip away to another
part of the garden. The real Susanna comes out of hiding, and Figaro suddenly recognizes his wife. He
pretends to make love to “the Countess” and Susanna smacks him. He reveals that he knew her all
along. They resume their lovemaking hoping to take revenge on the Count. The Count returns to find
Figaro with “the Countess” and denounces her. The real Countess suddenly appears and he discovers
that he has been duped. He honestly begs his wife’s forgiveness, which she grants, and all agree to end
this foolish day with celebration.
Cast and Company Biographies
Conductor Robert Tweten has been described as leading with “verve and
precision,” as well as having “flawless” pacing and “musicality and nearsymbiotic accord with singers which always impresses.” Engagements for the
2014-2015 season also include his Madama Butterfly for Utah Opera,
Edmonton Opera for Lucia di Lammermoor, and the New Mexico Philharmonic
for an all-Mozart program. He has recently led productions with Utah Opera for La traviata, Calgary
Opera for The Italian Girl in Algiers, and Edmonton Opera for Madama Butterfly. Upcoming
engagements include his return to Utah for Toscaand to Dayton for Madama Butterfly.
Early in his career, Brent Krysa’s production of Sondheim’s Assassins
garnered a spot in the Montreal Gazette’s ‘Top Ten Productions’ of the
year and A Little Night Music and Company were likewise hailed. Since
then he has been engaged across Canada for a variety of works
including Le Nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte, Candide, Postcard from
Morocco, and Hansel and Gretel. He adapted and directed Cinderella
and La Serva Padrona for the Canadian Opera Company tour and
produced The Barber of Seville for Hamilton Opera. Further credits include
McGill University, Dalhousie Opera, The Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto), Pacific Opera Victoria,
Indiana University, and the Lugo Festival in Italy.
Baritone: Dr. Bartolo
Baritone Steven Condy, who has built his reputation on his portrayals of
the great “buffo” roles, is admired not only for his robust and nuanced
voice, but also for his natural acting ability. He has performed the title role
in Falstaff, Frank in Die Fledermaus, Dr. Bartolo in Il Barbiere di Sivigilia, Sir
Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore, Dulcamara in L’elixir d’amore, Don
Magnifico in La Cenerentola, and Major General Stanley in The Pirates of
Penzance, among others, at opera houses across North America including Opera San Jose, Sarasota
Opera, Portland Opera, Calgary Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera,
Washington National Opera, and Arizona Opera, to name a few.
Baritone: Count Almaviva
Étienne Dupuis has been receiving international acclaim since his debut at
Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2011 as Zurga. He has since performed in Berlin
productions of Barbiere, Traviata, Boheme and I Pagliacci. Recent
engagements include Bohème with Vancouver Opera, Dead Man
Walking with l'Opéra de Montréal, concerts at Festival Montpellier, Figaro
in Avignon and Pearl Fishers in Strasbourg and Nantes. Upcoming
engagements include Oneguine, Figaro and Rodrigo in Berlin, Zurga with
Zurich Opera; Albert, Werther in Barcelona; L'Enfant et les Sortilèges and L’Heure Espagnole at
Glyndebourne; Lescaut in Manon in Marseille, Maria Stuarda with Opéra d'Avignon, Germont in La
Traviata with Opera du Rhin and Beatrice et Benedicte in La Monnaie de Bruxelles.
Winner of five top prizes at the Montreal International Music Competition,
Marianne Fiset has been hailed by critics and audiences alike. Future and
upcoming plans include Honegger’s l’Aiglon for Orchestre symphonique de
Montreal, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni in Wuppertal, Kevin Puts’ Silent
Night for l’Opéra de Montréal, and Micaela in Carmen for Vancouver
Opera. Her recent schedule included Manon at the Paris Opera, Mimi in La
Bohème for Calgary Opera, Austria’s Sankt-Margarethen Opernfestspiele,
and Verdi’sRequiem for the New Jersey Symphony, also released on CD. Her discography includes
Ophélie (French and German songs), Melodiya (Russian songs), Ravel and Debussy from Analekta and
the title role in David’s Lalla Roukh for Naxos.
Soprano: Countess Almaviva
Lyne Fortin is one of Canada's leading sopranos, with
appearances throughout Canada with the Canadian Opera,
l’Opéra de Montréal, Vancouver Opera, Opera
Saskatchewan, Calgary Opera, Edmonton, l’Opéra de
Québec, and Opera Hamilton. In Europe she has appeared
with the Vlaamse Opera and the Scottish Opera. In the
United States Ms. Fortin has appeared with the Baltimore
Opera, Seattle Opera, Connecticut Opera, Kentucky Opera,
Opera Pacific, Arizona Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, San Antonio Symphony, Akron
Symphony, New Jersey State Opera, and Portland Opera. Ms. Fortin will return to Kentucky
Opera as Verdi’s Lady Macbeth.
Tenor: Don Basilio / Don Curzio
Tenor Thomas Glenn has performed at the San
Francisco Opera, The Metropolitan Opera, The Lyric
Opera of Chicago, Netherlands Opera and The English
National Opera, among others. In 2012 he won a
GRAMMY Award for his participation in the
Metropolitan Opera production of Doctor Atomic on
the SONY label. His repertoire includes works by Mozart as well as Italian bel canto roles such as
Nemorino in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, Count Almaviva in Rossini's Il barbiere di siviglia and Tebaldo in
Bellini's I capuleti e i montecchi. Recent highlights include Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia at the
Festival Lyrique de Belle île in France, Beppe in Donizetti’s Rita with New Century Chamber Orchestra,
and William Dale in Silent Night with Cincinnati Opera.
Hailed as “a force of nature” (Toronto Star), Mezzo-Soprano
Lynne McMurtry has sung with the Boston Symphony, the
Charleston Symphony, the Winnipeg Symphony, Edmonton
Opera and Manitoba Opera, among others, and at many of the
major festivals, including Tanglewood, Ravinia, Banff, and
Aldeburgh. Conductors with whom she has performed include
Seiji Ozawa, Robert Spano, William Eddins, Kevin Mallon, and
Ivars Taurins. Recent and upcoming engagements include: The
Old Lady in Candide and Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro (Opera
Lyra Ottawa), Mistress Quickly in Falstaff (Opera Hamilton and
Calgary Opera), Bloody Mary in South Pacific (Pacific Opera
Victoria) and Messiah (Okanagan Symphony).
In 2014-15 Krisztina Szabó sings
Opera Company), Bach’s Christmas
Oratorio (Chicago’s Music of the Baroque), and
Mendelssohn’s Elijah (Vancouver Bach Choir,
Kingston Symphony). Career highlights:
Handel’s Solomon (Les Violons du Roy); Messiah (Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony); Donna Elvira in Don
Giovanni, Sesto in La clemenza di Tito (Vancouver Opera); Ljubica in Sokolovic’s Svabda/Wedding (Opera
Philadelphia); Giulietta in Les contes d’Hoffmann (Edmonton Opera); Adams’ El Niño(Vancouver Bach
Choir); Bach’s B Minor Mass (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Music of the Baroque); Musetta in La
Bohème, Le Pèlerin in L’Amour de loin, Idamante in Idomeneo, Dorabella in Così fan tutte(Canadian
Opera Company); Cherubino (Stadttheater Klagenfurt); and Susanna in The Ghosts of Versailles, Rosalind
in The Mines of Sulphur (Wexford Festival Opera).
Bass-Baritone Josef Wagner was born in Austria. He
studied singing at the University of Music and
Performing Arts Vienna as well as in master classes
led by Paul Esswood, Walter Berry, and Christa
Ludwig. After his stage debut with Don Alfonso and
Dulcamara, he became a member of the ensemble of
the Vienna Volksoper. Guest appearances led him among others to Munich, Geneva, Marseille, Antwerp,
Vienna, Tel Aviv, and Japan. He has performed parts such as Figaro, Papageno, Don Giovanni, Leporello,
and Escamillo. In 2006 he debuted at the Salzburg Festival. Josef Wagner also is in demand as a concert
vocalist (under conductors as Ton Koopman, Dennis Russel Davies, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt). Most
recently, he made his debut as Jochanaan at Royal Opera Stockholm and as Troïl in Vaisseau Fantôme at
Deutsche Oper Berlin, in summer 2014 he sung Papageno at Festival d’Aix-en Provence.
Bass-Baritone Aaron Dimoff made his Calgary Opera debut last
season singing Imperial Commissioner in Puccini’s Madame
Butterflyas a member of the Emerging Artist program. He also sang
the role of Father in Hansel and Gretel for the Opera in Schools
tour and at Opera in the Village, Collatinus in The Rape of Lucretia,
as well as Des Grieux in The Portrait of Manon. Returning for a
second year in the Emerging Artist program, Mr. Dimoff will also
perform on the mainstage as Zuniga in Carmen. Concert
appearances last season included Sciarrone in Puccini’s Tosca with
the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as excerpts of Haydn’s Creation and Mendelssohn’s
Elijah with the Festival Chorus Calgary.
Born in Ontario, Soprano Vanessa Oude-Reimerink recently completed
a Master’s Degree at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University
under the direction of Professor Sanford Sylvan. Her roles include
Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Susanna and Barbarina in Le
Nozze di Figaro, Pamina and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, Miss
Wordsworth in Albert Herring, Clara in The Light in the Piazza,
Rapunzel in Into the Woods, and the Canadian premiere ofVolpone by
John Musto, Ms. Oude-Reimerink has received training from Centre d’Arts Orford, COSI, Opera
NUOVA, Opera on the Avalon, the St. Andrews Opera Workshop, and Western University. She is
a recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada
Graduate Scholarship and the University of Western Ontario Gold Medal.