Opera at the Smith Opera House

Nicholas Kilkenny, Luke Scott, Abigail Karnes, and Mariami Bekauri. Photo by Kevin Schoonover

Geneva Light Opera presents “The Marriage of Figaro” on stage at the Smith Opera House this weekend

Figaro, the barber of Seville is getting hitched, and it’s a day of madness in the palace!

Geneva Light Opera presents Mozart’s most popular opera, “The Marriage of Figaro,” at 7 pm on July 25 and July 27, and at 3 pm on July 28 at the Smith Opera House. This comic masterpiece will be sung in Italian and English with English supertitles projected on a screen above the stage. 

“The Marriage of Figaro” (“Le nozze di Figaro”) is set in Count Almaviva’s castle in Seville in the late 18th Century. It is based on Beaumarchais’s 1784 play “La Folle Journée, ou Le Mariage de Figaro,” a sequel to his earlier play, “Le Barbier de Séville” (“The Barber of Seville”), familiar to opera audiences through Rossini’s great opera (Mozart’s opera premiered in 1786; Rossini’s in 1816). In “Barber,” the Count of Almaviva, with substantial help from Figaro, wooed and won the lovely Rosina away from her crusty old ward and would-be husband, Dr. Bartolo.

In “The Marriage of Figaro,” Beaumarchais continued their story. The Count has married Rosina but their marriage has gone sour because of his philandering. Figaro has quit barbering and is now the Count’s major-domo. He is engaged to Susannah, Countess Rosina’s maid — and the Count’s intended conquest. Old Bartolo is back to seek revenge on Figaro for taking Rosina away from him, with the help of the slimy music-master, Don Bsilio. Adding to the fun are an amorous teenager, a scheming old maid, a drunken gardener, and a silly young girl. Much happens on a single “folle journée” — a crazy day.

Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, took this popular play, removed “political” content that would have offended the Viennese imperial censors (the French Revolution was only a few years away), and faithfully translated the rest into Italian — the customary opera language of the day. With Mozart’s brilliant score, the result was a witty yet profound tale of love, betrayal, and forgiveness.

With its bubbling overture, brilliantly crafted arias, and lively, intricate ensemble scenes, Geneva Light Opera’s new production boasts a chamber orchestra hand-picked and conducted by Maestro James Blachly, and is staged and directed by Marie Allyn King with assistance from stage manager Edward Ehinger. 

The production features bass Tyler Putnam as Figaro, soprano Michelle Seipel as Susanna, baritone Robert Garner as the Count of Almaviva, soprano Darlene Bennett as Countess Rosina, mezzo soprano Sarah Nordin as Cherubino, bass Nicholas Kilkenny as Doctor Bartolo, mezzo soprano Giliana Norkunas as Marcillina, tenor Brian Ross Yeakley as Basilio, baritone Luke Scott as Antonio, and mezzo soprano (and Geneva High School alumni) Mariami Bekauri as Barbarina. Covers and chorus members include Emily Hughes, Natalia Hulse, Brian Keith Johnson, Abigail Karnes, Renee Macdonald, Ardys Otterbacher, Llewellyn Lafford, and Steven Maynard. Elizabeth Rodgers is the rehearsal pianist who will also play recitatives in performances.

The forced perspective backdrops are courtesy of Stivanello Costume Co. in New York City. These beautiful depictions of Spanish palaces and gardens were designed by Ercole Sormani, former head of an illustrious scenic studio founded in Milan in 1838, and responsible for executing the scenery for the 1853 premier of Verdi’s “La Traviata” in Venice. In 1935, Anthony Stivanello, the company’s founder, directed Verdi’s opera “Aida” at the Smith Opera House with Fred Cass – father of former Geneva mayor Don Cass – singing in the chorus.

“The Marriage of Figaro” is a rousing comedy with more serious underlying meaning. Chaos and hilarity abound as clever servants outwit arrogant masters, and craft women outsmart foolish men, all during one wild day as they prepare for a wedding…or two. Love is a battlefield in this opera that has delighted audiences since its creation, and the plot, with themes of social class stress and sexual tension, remains relevant today. 

Thanks to its abundant use in pop culture, virtually everyone knows the music from “The Marriage of Figaro.” The overture has been used in movies including “Trading Places,” “The King’s Speech,” “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Zombieland.” Tim Robbins’ character famously played “Sull ‘aria’” over the prison loudspeaker in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Tickets for “The Marriage of Figaro” range from $45-$75 and are available online at GenevaLightOpera.org. Tickets may be also purchased at Stomping Grounds in Geneva, Mobile Music in Canandaigua, The Copy Shop in Seneca Falls, and Longs’ Cards & Books in Penn Yan. They will be available at the door one half hour before curtain.

Geneva On The Lake, a resort hotel and gourmet restaurant located on Seneca Lake just one mile south of The Smith, is offering a special prix fixe dinner for “The Marriage of Figaro” ticket holders. Patrons will be able to select three courses from the regular menu with a glass of wine for $49 (plus tax and gratuity). On Thursday and Saturday, the dinner is at 5:00 before the performance. For the matinee on Sunday, the dinner is at 6:30 pm after the performance.Call 315-789-7190 for details and reservations. Geneva On The Lake is located at 1001 Lochland Road.

Geneva Light Opera’s mission is to inspire, educate and entertain Finger Lakes audiences by presenting quality operatic productions through collaboration of young performers, local professionals and nationally known artists. Having been sponsored by American Landmak Festivals for many years, Geneva Light Opera became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in 2016.

This production of “The Marriage of Figaro” is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts’ Decentralization Program, administered locally by Finger Lakes Community Arts Grants, and by grants the Williams Family Foundation, the Wyckoff Family Foundation, Geneva Rotary Club, and the Nelson B. Delavan Foundation.

From the breathless opening notes of the overture to the touching final curtain, Mozart brilliantly bucks the conventions of his time to deliver an ageless message of love and forgiveness.

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