Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Folle Journée in the Life


We finished our section on Le Nozze di Figaro today in Music 101. There were some wonderful things in the production we watched on DVD, a live performance given in 1993 at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, with John Eliot Gardiner conducting (the DVD is pictured above). I particularly loved the moment during "Pace, pace, mio dolce tesoro," the beginning of the Act IV Finale, in which Figaro confesses to Susanna that he knew her by her voice (a lovely conceit itself): Alison Hagley, as Susanna, sings "La mia voce?" ["My voice?"] in the smallest, sweetest pianissimo, giving the sense that Susanna is not only surprised, but touched, even overwhelmed, by the love Figaro has for her on their wedding night, at the close of a day of total madness, doubt, confusion and deceit.

My formerly ultra-Orthodox Jewish student suggested that Figaro was biblical. He related the exchanging of identities between the Countess and Susanna to Leah being exchanged for Rachel on Jacob's wedding day; the Count forcing Cherubino into the army to David sending Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, to the frontlines to be killed; and the moment in Act IV when the Count, thinking his wife to be his maid, gives her a ring as a token of his affection to the Genesis account of Judah and Tamar. I can't say I agree, but I found the notion intriguing.

In other Figaro news, I was suprised the other day to find my office-mate talking with a baritone whom she'd engaged to substitute-teach one of her voice classes. I recognized him as the Figaro from the long-ago production in which I sang with my good friend Soprannie. He didn't recognize me, I have a different last name now, and I was too shy to mention those far-off days, so we met one another as two anonymous voice-teaching adjuncts at a big public university.

7 comments:

Roseanne said...

Actually, the ring conceit sounds a lot like the ending of Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All's_Well_That_Ends_Well

Pentimento said...

All's Well That Ends Well sounds a lot more biblical than Le Nozze di Figaro, come to think of it . . .

Tertium Quid said...

Your posts are like a personal version of Karl Hoss' "Adventures in Good Music."

I wish you and your students a hundred pleasant "Sull'arias".

Tertium Quid said...

Question:

My daughter (almost eight) is very reluctant to learn how to count when playing the piano. She had a meltdown yesterday with a new teacher. (Her first teacher is on maternity leave.)

Any suggestions of ways to make counting fun?

Pentimento said...

TQ, you're asking the wrong person, i.e., a singer - we are notorious for not counting. Try this with your daughter, because she may have a different sensibility for learning music and this might be more along her lines. Ask her to focus on the melody rather than on counting. If she can memorize the way the tune goes, counting will fall into place. And here's a trick: ask her to pay attention to the melody with her right ear. Let me know if it works.

Pentimento said...

Also, T.Q., thank you for the "Sull'aria" wish. I think my absolute favorite number in the opera is the "recognition" sextet, "Riconosci in questo amplesso," followed by the wonderful Count-Susanna duet, "Crudel! perche finora." Check 'em out!

Tertium Quid said...

Beautiful. I linked. TQ