Everybody dance now!

It seems that while creating Le Nozze di Figaro (English title is The Marriage of Figaro) Mozart and his famous librettist Da Ponte derived formula of a perfect comic opera. You can observe dashingly twisted intrigue with dramatically evolving action, incredibly charming characters, and constant change of clothes... Le Nozze is overflowed with joyful elements of game and carnival; at the same time it has both shrill lyrical moments and profound drama. This opera is loved by singers and conductors (not mentioning music lovers around the world). It is very alluring for directors too: like a complex maze, not easy to calculate the move, but extremely entertaining.

It premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 1 May 1786. Mozart’s friend, Michael Kelly, recalled: “Nobody ever had that tremendous amount of success as Mozart with his Le Nozze di Figaro. Theatre was full; many numbers had to be repeated so it took twice longer to perform than it was supposed to be. Audience wouldn’t stop applauses to Mozart and called encore” . Emperor even had to issue a special direction: to play an encore only certain pieces instead of the entire numbers.

Next year opera premiered in Prague followed by the same phenomenal success. “Everyone talks nothing else but Figaro here; they play nothing, praise, whistle, sing nothing but Figaro, listen to no other operas but Figaro” (extract from Mozart’s letter). This is how triumphal procession of Figaro began around the world.

It dropped by The Bolshoi Theatre, though, with inconceivable and unforgiving delay – first production took place only in 1926! Work was directed by Andrey Petrovsky and conducted by maestro Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov. Altogether it was staged at the Bolshoi four times. Groundbreaking record holder was the production by Boris Pokrovsky that stayed in repertoire over twenty years (1956-1978) – within this period it was performed 291 times.

In 2014 William Lacey and Dmitry Belyanushkin presented a semi-staged production that was well received with enthusiasm by both audience in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and led to conquering heart of Norwegian viewer.

Evegeny Pisarev, famous drama director, was invited to work on the new production for the Bolshoi New Stage. He was well familiar with Figaro and his matrimonial worries. In 2014 he staged Le Nozze di Figaro by Beaumarchais at Pushkin Drama Theatre where he was director at the time. It was a tasteful and gentle play that became a total hit. This was his only second time working on opera theatre – as he was saying before premiere, “many ideas on how to tell the story, but I have to bear in mind that it will be sung”.

Evgeny Pisarev:

— Beauty of this opera is that you can flip it by any side – it is amazingly versatile. I personally felt like diving into its festive world.

We conditionally placed the set in the middle of XX century – it can be 50s, or 60s, or 70s. It was a post-war period with intrinsic desire for life, joy and feast. Our play will certainly be about love. Because everyone is in love here – Marcellina, Cherubino and even Count himself. They all cheat on one another- but without pain, though, on a contrary – with passion and joy. They can’t handle themselves – too much of testosterone and energy, thirst for pleasure and happiness. I think that’s what you call a Mozartian spirit.

Le Nozze di Figaro is wonderful because of displaying different types of love, different extent of feelings and stages of relationship between man and a woman. Main characters are Figaro and Susanna. Affectionate couple who is in pursuit of happiness whether they are right or wrong; they exchange jokes and do pranks. As the matter of fact, they really take risk, but do everything possible to be together.

I’m trying to take something from Beaumarchais’s comedy. Image of Countess, for instance, is too dramatic at Mozart’s play, no shred of irony in her regards while Beaumarchais offers quite enough of it. That’s why I ask my actresses who are performing this part, to find something funny, awkward even, to avoid portraying her too simple – miserable and suffering. Or, take Marcellina for example. She is a distinctive heroine: she goes through amazing change after giving a birth. Thus, even typical and hilarious characters can out of sudden become warm-hearted and lively in our play.

It is also quite important for me – not to let the play become too common and dull. At the same time characters should be easily relatable. They can drink tea onstage or brush teeth, yet the play should not become plain. It’s like a genre movie of the middle of last century, like Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (English title is The Young Girls of Rochefort) or Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (English title is The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) – beautiful picture, relatable characters, but without realism in full sense of the word. Form and style are still above the reality.

Albert Alberts, choreographer, works with me on this performance, although, there are hardly any dances (except wedding scene). But I request my artists to practically dance their parts, to avoid trivial and simple movements. So roles should not only be played and sung, but danced as well.

I’d like my audience to associate themselves with Figaro. I think anyone can relate to him. He is the main hero and simply a nice person. This is the man who finds a way out of tricky situations, and does it with integrity. Figaro is a very righteous character, he does not suffer, he takes decisions. I generally like this type of active personalities. I have never been fond of Hamlet, for instance. Moreover, Figaro is very close to a present day hero. He is not revolutionary, not idealist, not warrior. With creative approach to life, he never breaks down or compromises his beliefs.

Alexandra Melnikova

Translated by Anna Muraveva