A marriage so strong, it will last for an eternity

For two days in December, the Royal National Theatre will host Mozart’s bitter-sweet comedic opera, The Marriage of Figaro (originally Le Nozze di Figaro). This much-loved opera, performed by Den Jyske Opera,  witnesses the rollercoaster emotions during the course of a chaotic, action-packed day of intrigue and misunderstandings. All shades of the emotional palette are embraced: from lust, transgression and jealousy, to commitment and forgiveness. These desires and emotions spin dramatically out of control as the day of madness unfolds − all set to the magical music of Mozart.

On the surface, it may seem like an almost slapstick comedy of errors, in which all the characters seem hell-bent on following their own self-serving instincts and desires. But the story of the opera − a political and psychological dramatisation of the aristocratic hierarchy set to a simply stunning orchestration that subtly personifies the individual characters − is so much more than that.

Figaro has its origins in a play by Beaumarchais that was banned by the French monarchy and that only had its première in 1784 – by that time, the writing was on the wall for Louis XVI. Transforming the piece into an opera must have been quite the political hot potato in the censorious atmosphere of Joseph II’s Vienna, where the play had also been banned. The librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte wrote his script in poetic Italian and removed the obvious political references to get the censor’s approval. Although the rascally aristocrats do get their comeuppance in Figaro, what was really fascinating for Mozart and Da Ponte is the sheer human drama that ensues from the twists, turns and entanglements on the unforgettable day of Figaro’s wedding.

The Danish National Opera’s production from 2006 provides everything that the discerning opera-goer would expect: exuberant costumes, an aesthetically effervescent staging and high musical standards, both on and off stage. Set in the Seville of the late 18th century, the performance has costumes inspired by the vibrant colours and imagery of Spanish artist Goya.  Robert Bøgelund Vinther’s staging (based on Jan Maagaard’s original) of this operatic masterpiece has more than lived up to its billing. Two strong teams of singers combine with conductor Per Otto Johansson, who expertly leads the outstanding team of soloists supported by the Copenhagen Philharmonic.

From the comic fanfare of the opening overture to the dramatic explosive climax, the powerful score defines the emotional and expressive universe that captivates the audience. The emancipated atmosphere allows the personal turmoil of the main characters Figaro, Susanna, the Count and Countess to be reflected in the arias Mozart composed for them. Cherubino’s seemingly uncontrollable urges come to fruition in ‘Non so più cosa son’ and ‘Voi che sapete’, the Count’s furious rage is given full vent in ‘Hai giá vinta la causu’, and Figaro’s moving ‘Aprite un po’ quegli occhi’. Perhaps the most affecting music is reserved for the women: the Countess’s tragic and poignant ‘Porgi, amor’ or Susanna’s entrancing ‘Deh vieni’.  However, it is Mozart’s ensemble music that assaults the senses, most famously in the finale of Act II in which the mounting tension is brilliantly interpreted with one of the longest uninterrupted pieces of music ever composed by Mozart.

Over the years, opera has acquired an unfair reputation for being inaccessible − a secret world reserved for the privileged classes and cultural elite. But the register of emotions and themes is universal and the cocktail of song, music, costumes, dance and special effects are instantly recognisable from Hollywood to Bollywood. For those yet to experience opera first hand, the Old Stage in Kongen’s Nytorv provides both an elegant setting and a typical Danish informality for such occasions, which means you can leave your gala dresses and dinner jackets at home. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is a classic of its kind and is the perfect introduction to the enchanting world of opera.

The 2006 performances received rave reviews, and the 2012 reviews have been no less enthusiastic with standing ovations at all performances. Lean back in the sumptuous surroundings of the Gamle Scene and succumb to the overwhelming theatrical and musical experience that is The Marriage of Figaro.

The Marriage of Figaro
Gamle Scene, Kongens Nytorv 9, Cph K; Tue & Wed 19:30; tickets 95-595kr;  180 mins including intermission; in Italian with Danish subs; www.kglteater.dk