By Robin Guarino
It is so emotional for the students, faculty and staff to be back in the theater rehearsing and performing a fully staged opera for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Therefore, for the first order of business and as their envoy:
“The cast, orchestra, creative team and crew want to thank you for coming tonight and believing in us and coming back to be our audience. We dedicate this performance to you!”
About 15 years ago, I was directing Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera and rehearsing with my soon-to-be colleague at CCM, Marie-France Lefebvre, who was the assistant conductor, coach and prompter for the Met production. Our friendship was born in those rehearsals.
We were both very nervous and excited to be moving to Cincinnati and over the next months, whenever I questioned my decision to leave New York City, I thought of our collaboration and the work we would do together at CCM with the fantastic students I had already met. Now 15 years later, there is a certain harmony to the fact that we are here again rehearsing Figaro having brought our students back to the stage in this new world we are living in with Mozart’s masterpiece.
The great Italian Bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto once told me that he ‘was born as an artist in the role of Figaro.’ I know this is true for me as a director. The power of The Marriage of Figaro remains so prescient in its music, storytelling and relevance. Yes, it speaks of the four seasons of love portrayed in the household: Barbarina and Cherubino (spring), Susanna and Figaro (summer), the Countess and Count (fall), and Marcellina and Bartolo (winter), but it also reflects on more serious matters of class and privilege that is focused on specifically with the Droit du seigneur (lord's right), also known as jus primae noctis (right of the first night). Susanna’s right to choose who she “gives herself to” on her wedding night, something so personal and completely inalienable.
What also impresses me every time I direct Figaro is Mozart and Da Ponte’s ability to capture humanity at its fullest and most complex on the eve of revolution. Even the Count, who is clearly the foil in this story, is a man who is struggling between wanting to do the right thing and being perceived as weak and fundamentally questioning his role as Count and head of the estate.
On the first day of rehearsal we set our goal to explore a deeper humanity in all of the characters in the opera no matter the size of the role. I have also seen that attitude across the entire team. I know that all of the students: cast, creative team, orchestra and crew have worked harder than they ever have to earn this opera and achieve the large collaborative brain trust truly necessary to do a piece like this. I am so proud them; they are passionate and fearless. And they are so excited to perform for you tonight — so WE thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being here!