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Timeless Lessons in Comedy

“Self-reflection” is the intention that our director, David Paul, gave our cast for the Act IV finale of our production of Le nozze di Figaro. After our final room run on Sunday, he told us that one of the challenges of this production is striking the balance between the outrageous humor and more serious aspects of the show in order to allow the final finale to have an impact on the audience.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why this opera now? Its obviously a great experience of all of the young singers to learn and perform a Motzart opera, particularly one that tends to be a popular part of the national repertoire. Its a great project for the Opera Institute and Boston University to take on to demonstrate the kind of high-quality productions we are capable of producing. Musically, its a brilliantly complex work of art. But none of those satisfactorily answer the question, why do we need to tell this story now? Especially given the current political climate and debate surrounding the arts in terms of funding and programming, why do we continue to tell the story of the drama a couple experiences on their wedding day?

On the surface, the opera teaches the audience a moral lesson on fidelity and forgiveness. *Spoilers. I guess? Its a nearly 300 year-old, canonized opera, so I don’t really feel like I can spoil it* The plot of the show hinges on the Count’s infidelity. Susanna, Figaro and the Countess craft all of these plans in order to embarrass and get back at the him. Unknowingly, the Count proclaims his love for Susanna to the Countess. When the rouse is reveled, the Count gets down on his knees and begs for forgiveness, which the Countess grants and, because its a comedy, everyone celebrates with some champagne. In the end, love triumphs. Below the surface is a lesson on humanity and equality. The Count shows us a human being with some serious character flaws. The piece showcases the Enlightenment-era idea that despite one’s class status, we are all equal – e.g. aristocratic birth does not automatically mean that one is more deserving or somehow of better character than a servant. Although societal structures have changed since Mozart’s day, we still have a tendency to deify people, in particular celebrities. Its important for us to remember that we are all human beings, we all make mistakes, we are all problematic. So to answer my own question: the idea of equality  and humanity despite class-status or other societal deification is timeless.

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