American Revolution, effective stage backdrop, French Revolution, gender and class oppression, McCaw Hall, Mozart, Seattle Opera, the 18th century Europe, The Marriage of Figaro, the right of the lords, women wearing formal gowns
My husband and I went to Seattle to see Seattle Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro last weekend. We usually schedule a dinner at a Seattle restaurant in order to avoid missing performances. (Occasionally in the past we had to miss the theater performances due to the horrific traffic jams on I 5.) We left home early and arrived in Seattle – predictably – much earlier than we had expected. (Life is often ironical: for instance, when we are prepared for the difficult traffic situations we often end up having no difficulty at all. Traffic jams seem to happen when we least expect them.)
We had an excellent dinner at a restaurant near the McCaw Hall and arrived at the theater early. (The truth is that we wanted to park our car early in order to secure a parking spot that would allow easy access to the exit. We wanted to avoid waiting in the car for half an hour or so just to get out of the parking facility across from the McCaw Hall.)
At McCaw Hall we prepared ourselves for a long night by having a cup of espresso coffee since the Marriage of Figaro is a long opera, lasting over 3 hours. (After all, the recent government health report confirmed that up to 5 cups a day of coffee drinking might be good for us, for example, preventing some health problems, such as Parkinson’s.) Since it was raining we had coffee at the theater rather than going out to a nearby café that serves good coffee. We also examined some costumes exhibited in the lobby from opera performances related to the 18th century Europe. The costumes displayed were huge and voluminous.
As people arrived in the theater I noticed many people, particularly women, wearing formal gowns. True, people tend to get dressed up for opera performances. But, the number of people in formal attires this Saturday evening was much larger than usual. Perhaps this phenomenon was due to the fact that Saturday’s performance was the first performance of The Marriage of Figaro. Anyway, it was rather entertaining to observe people moving about in their formal gowns that sometimes exposed them to elements
Around 7:30 we sat down in our seats and noticed the theater was packed. The musicians in the orchestra box started tuning their instruments. The theater was darkened to signal the beginning of the performance. Then, that familiar, energetic Mozart’s overture started, enveloping the darkened space with a sprightly overture marked by cheerful clarity and stately harmony. (It seems that Seattle Opera recently added two monitors that allow the audience to actually sees the conductor leading in the orchestra. Some people might think it a little annoying, but I appreciated the option of being able to see the conductor working, which is often hidden in opera and ballet performances.)
Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is an operatic masterpiece that boasts a perfect union of story and music. It is superficially light and absurd, but nonetheless squarely grounded in the socio-historical reality of the time of its creation that hints at the coming social upheaval in the forms of American Revolution and French Revolution, which is to say the revolt of the underclass against the oppressive upper-class. Seattle Opera’s excellent production of Mozart’s masterpiece enhanced this socio-historical reality by devising a stage backdrop of several tall lattice patterned solid wooden walls that starkly divided and confined characters to their places in the society even while they scurried about on the stage briskly and energetically.
Since The Marriage of Figaro is a comic opera, the story ends with a “happy” reconciliation of the oppressed (servants and women) and the oppressor (lord and men). But, as the audience living in contemporary society, we know that the story would not end there while at the same time we realize, sadly, the so-called “the right of the lords” (the iconic behavior of class and gender oppression in this opera) still exists in some societies of our world.