There is absolutely no reason I should have screwed this up again. After all, I thought I had learned my lesson at Carmen the week before, but no, once more I went ahead and attended an opera without first reading the plot. And, for an opera with a plot of Shakespearean complexity, this was a bit to the detriment of my enjoyment of The Marriage of Figaro. In comparison, even if I had not read the plot of Carmen during the intermission, I could have made my way through the fairly simple plot of love, jealousy, revenge. With The Marriage of Figaro, that was not possible. Multiple, intricate relationships and hidden agendas were the norm, and by the time they got to the disguises and mistaken identities in the final act, I was done. Again, the opera had been translated into German, so there were sections I understood, which is better than if it had remained in Italian, but totally missed the meaning of. For example, it turned out the woman in black was Figaro's mother and the man with glasses was his father (Really hard to miss when "Die Mutter? Die Mutter." is repeated several times and accompanied by pointing). No problem following that. She originally intended to marry him because he defaulted on a loan? Did not figure that out until I read the Wikipedia entry the next day. Or, take when the Countess lied to cover for the escape of the effeminate one. Could have figured that out simply through the pantomime, but I would have rather liked to know why he had to escape through the window in the first place (he was supposed to be in the military).
Not that reading the plot late was as useful as it could have been. Now I understood why the various notes and letters being passed around were so important and needed to be kept hidden, but this was, as evidenced by the above picture, a modernized production of the opera. When Figaro was not prancing in a suit, he went about in bib overalls, the Count sported jeans and a sport jacket throughout, and Susanne played her French maid outfit to the extreme. Despite my lack of experience in such operatic matters, I am fairly certain in my assumption that this is not what Mozart and Rossini originally intended. This would not be such a problem, as I normally would assume that only the costumes were updated, were it not for a woman actually playing the role of a male character. Were some of the lines changed for that role to play some new joke? I have no idea. And what was the deal with taking the Count around in a wheelbarrow? Could not afford a proper carriage and found it more stylish than a rickshaw? Merely a clever pun? So many questions remain.
Still, I do offer the cast, especially Figaro and the Countess, the greatest props for playing so big and keeping it amusing even when the words were lost on at least one particular audience member. I already mentioned it, but the revelation of Figaro's parentage, replete with the disappointment of his discovered father, the excitement of his new mother and the lawyer whose irritating jabber bridged the language barrier better than a Babelfish, was a particular high point.
Not as enjoyable as Carmen as The Marriage of Figaro relied less on emotion, good for someone who has difficulty with the language, and more on plot and lyrical cleverness, less good for me, but not enough to put me off opera. I will just have to be more careful and more prepared in going to the next one.
2 years ago