The Marriage of Figaro
February 3-4, 8:30p.m., February 9-11, 8:30 p.m.,
Dunster Dining Hall
Directed by Stewart N. Kramer '12
Music Directed by Matthew A. Aucoin '12
Produced by Ashley N. Kaupert '12, Daniel V. Clark '12, and Civry P. Melvin '14
Questions of sexual fidelity, trust, and desire claim the stage in Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro.” Written in 1786, this groundbreaking opera combines a revolutionary satire of government and aristocracy with some of classical opera’s most romantic musical moments. “Mozart chose to focus on the romantic dynamics of the piece itself,” says Stewart N. Kramer ’12, director of Dunster House Opera’s upcoming production. Mozart’s collaboration with Lorenzo Da Ponte, who wrote the Italian libretto, “is about men and women; it’s about relationships rather than about politics,” Kramer said.
In the opera, the imminent marriage of a butler, Figaro, and a maid, Susanna, in the home of their master, a count with a penchant for lusting after women who are not the countess, spurs an onslaught of misinterpretations, schemes, and designs for revenge. Kramer and music director Matthew A. Aucoin ‘12 deal with this tangle of relationships in much the same way that most directors have since 1786, but with one outstanding exception: they translated the opera themselves.
Many translations of “The Marriage of Figaro” are so obtuse that “it stops you from enjoying the comedy and it stops you from taking the serious moments seriously,” says Kramer. For this reason, he and Aucoin decided to translate on their own. According to the Dunster House Opera Society, they are the first students at Harvard to stage an opera featuring their own translation of the libretto. Their aim is to make this piece as straightforward as possible for modern listeners while staying faithful to the original text. In other words, this translation follows the rhythm and rhyme scheme of the original Italian. This accuracy is not just an aesthetic choice, but it is also important for musical reasons as well. “Mozart had a lot of fun placing certain emphases on moments where the text rhymes, so I figured, even if it drives me crazy, I want to preserve every single rhyme in this piece,” Aucoin, who is fluent in Italian, says.
This fidelity to the text means that the production preserves aspects of the opera that most directors usually cut out, such as characters’ asides to the audience. “A lot of English translators seem to think, “We’re not going to get it exact, so we might as well do whatever the hell we want,” said Aucoin. “I think that’s B.S.. I think you can come pretty close.”
—Raquel A. Schreiber