A Timeless Mirror: Finding Ourselves within “The Marriage of Figaro”

WNO_16-17_MarriageofFigaro_620x349_v2From the playbill for The Marriage of Figaro

by Kelley Rourke, WNO Dramaturg

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Spoiler alert: No one dies in The Marriage of Figaro.

In an art form teeming with over-the-top offenders, the characters in The Marriage of Figaro seem slightly tame—more Downton Abbey than True Crime. But the lack of superheroes and supervillains is precisely what makes Mozart and Da Ponte’s comedy of manners so compelling. The emotional life of the household first imagined by the playwright Beaumarchais raises our ire, splits our sides, breaks our hearts, and sends us out of the theater with recognition of—and hope for—our shared humanity.

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Revolutionary Writers: Beaumarchais and Da Ponte

D'après Jean-Marc Nattier, Portrait de Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (BMCF)

D’après Jean-Marc Nattier, Portrait de Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (BMCF)

From the playbill for The Marriage of Figaro

by Kelley Rourke, WNO Dramaturg

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Because you are a great lord, you believe that you are a great genius! You took the trouble to be born, no more. You remain an ordinary enough man!”

The social architecture of the 18th century put many obstacles in the path of an ambitious young man like Pierre Augustin Caron (1732–1799); at the same time, it served as the scaffolding for his climb. The playwright who gave us Figaro, the ultimate jack-of-all-trades, lived a life bursting with adventures and accomplishments, as did the Italian poet who would adapt his Le Mariage de Figaro into one of our most beloved operas.

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