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Houston Grand Opera presents The Marriage of Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro is being produced by the Houston Grand Opera, and thanks to the Husband I got to attend a dress rehearsal with our neighbors on Tuesday, April 12. (The Husband begged off: he got us tickets and bowed out. Fair enough.) Now, I had not attended an opera since, what was it, high school? or middle school? And I remember not liking it much. I’m not sure what it was, in fact; I want to say it was Shakespeare but I could be crazy. Do they make opera out of Shakespeare? This is very much not my area of expertise, but it being a) free and b) a dress rehearsal, this sounded like a fine time to give it another go.

Well, it turned out to be a snafu in various ways, and I got in late and left early, both due to circumstances beyond my control. So, call it an incomplete experiment. But I have some observations to share all the same.

Please be patient with me, opera aficionados, for I am entirely new to this. So first, the music is very beautiful – the orchestral music, I mean – I’m not a symphony-goer, either, but it would have been lovely on its own. The operatic singing is unlike anything else, so being so new to it, it’s a bit hard to fit into my world, if you will; it might be a bit of an acquired taste, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I think I did; it’s just different. And very impressive. It is of course in Italian, but even in English I’m not sure I could entirely understand them. There’s a little screen way up above the stage rolling subtitles; it’s a little rough looking down at the actors and up at the screen, but it allows me to follow the action. There’s something a bit disjointed about the fact that every 10 words on the screen take 90 syllables onstage (they repeat almost every line, for one line) but I was able to adjust to the rhythm. So I guess my theme here is, this is a unique art form and one that must be gotten accustomed to.

The plot of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (which I read online before attending – did my homework – I find that I enjoy theatre better when I’m a bit familiar ahead of time) was surprisingly Shakespearean. Lots of mistaken identity, disguises, romantic quadrangles, lovers or suspected lovers hiding under couches when the next one enters the room. A bit slapstick. Very fun! I’m not sure I realized opera could be so fun. (Please forgive my prejudice.) And I’m not sure I’d realized that really, it’s just musical theatre – except that they sing in a distinctive style, in a foreign language, and constantly – all the words are sung – unlike standard musicals which are plays in which the actors spontaneously burst into choreographed song and dance. (Very realistic. :)) Oh, and that reminds me, there was almost no dancing – at least during the parts of this production that I got to see. That’s a bit disappointing; but perhaps with such, erm, athletic (?) singing, it would be too much to dance, too.

My overall review is incomplete because I saw only part of the show, but: I like this. It deserves more of my time and attention to become better acquainted with this format, and I’m ready to give it. Luckily I get another chance: I have tickets to another dress rehearsal in a few weeks, of Ariadne auf Naxos, and I’m taking my mother, and I’m looking forward to it!

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