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Arts & Culture

Chautauqua Opera Trilogy matches 18th century to today's headlines


Fans of the musical HAMILTON are quite comfortable with 18th century figures singing about issues which still impact us today, so it shouldn't be too much of a leap to enjoy three operas in a row, July 25, 26, and 27 at the Chautauqua Institution, all based on plays by a hero of the American and French revolution - Beaumarchais!

Chautauqua Opera's General & Artistic Director, Steve Osgood, walks us through the big "Opera Trilogy" weekend, July 25, 26, 27 of 2019 with THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO in a new version as ¡Figaro! (90210), and THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES, all inspired by the playwright Beaumarchais who participated in both the French and the American Revolutions. Quite a character who lived in quite a turbulent time, his stories resonate with audiences today. WNED's Peter Hall found out more.

Credit Steve Osgood
Chautauqua Opera's General & Artistic Director, Steve Osgood.

In "About the Operas" we read about THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, music by Gioachino Rossini; libretto by Cesare Sterbini, to be performed July 25 in Norton Hall on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution. "In Rossini’s lively comic opera, a young Count Almaviva (in disguise) is wooing the spirited and savvy Rosina, Dr. Bartolo’s young ward. Dr. Bartolo plans to marry Rosina himself, but Seville’s favorite trickster, Figaro, is on the scene to foil his schemes and help the young lovers unite, with hilarity and hijinks aplenty."

¡FIGARO! (90210) is an update of THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, with music by W.A. Mozart; and a new libretto by Vid Guerrerio, based on Le Nozze di Figaro by Lorenzo da Ponte, with two more performance dates: July 14 and 26 in Norton Hall. "Vid Guerrerio’s multicultural adaptation of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro sets the action in modern-day Beverly Hills. Hollywood elite Paul and Roxanne Conti (Count Almaviva and Rosina) are now married with a daughter, and Figaro and his soon-to-be-bride Susana are undocumented workers on their estate. Hailed by Opera News as “dynamic, thought-provoking, respectful, and, yes, hilarious,” Guerrerio’s English and Spanish libretto infuses Mozart’s masterpiece with humor, heart, and present-day discussions of race, class, and American identity."

And the third opera, THE GHOSTS OF VERSAIALLES, WITH music by John Corigliano; libretto by William Hoffman, has only one performance planned this summer, on the final day of the "triology," Saturday July 27 in the Amphitheater. Here's the plot: "Marie Antoinette and her court are bored of the afterlife, and bitter about their deaths. The love-struck ghost of Beaumarchais believes he can change the queen’s untimely fate by using the power of art. He brings his beloved Figaro and company back to life in a new opera, but when Figaro refuses to stick to the script, Beaumarchais must enter his own story. Alternately hilarious and heart breaking, this grand opera buffa is one of America’s operatic masterpieces."

Even though "semi-retired," Peter Hall continues to wear many hats. He is the Sunday afternoon host on WBFO’s “sister station,” WNED Classical where he has produced over 1,000 radio interviews with musical artists. If you see him at a theater with a pen in his hand, he’s probably getting ready to co-host “Theater Talk” with Anthony Chase (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO) or to write a review for www.buffalorising.com. He is also a member of the "Artie Awards" committee (think “Tony Awards for Buffalo theaters”).
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