Eric Einhorn, stage director of Chautauqua Opera Company’s ¡Figaro! (90210), has directed different operatic versions of The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville and The Ghosts of Versailles several times throughout his career.
“I was thrilled when given the opportunity to come up here, especially that it was this piece,” Einhorn said. “These characters are characters that I’ve spent many years with.”
In this version of The Marriage of Figaro, the characters are dealing with current “hot button issues,” which the opera showcases in a “thoughtful” and “elegant way,” according to Einhorn.
At 4 p.m. Friday, June 28 in Norton Hall, Chautauqua Opera Company will open its 2019 mainstage season with ¡Figaro! (90210), a modern adaptation of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, by librettist Vid Guerrerio.
The classic opera tells the story of a “single day of madness,” following main characters Figaro and his bride-to-be Susanna, who are both employed by Count Almaviva. It comes three years after Figaro helped the Count marry his wife, Countess Rosine, in the story of The Barber of Seville.
But in the adapted version of The Marriage of Figaro, Guerrerio’s ¡Figaro! (90210), the count and his wife are Hollywood elites living a luxurious lifestyle as Paul and Roxanne Conti. Figaro and his fiancé Susana — originally referred to as Susanna in the classic version — are undocumented workers on Paul and Roxanne’s estate.
Guerrerio introduces these characters to a new world, transitioning them to what would be their modern-day equivalents.
“Rather than it just becoming about sliding somebody over into a new costume and all of a sudden they are modern, Vid has done a wonderful job of recasting who these characters are,” Einhorn said.
With the revived plot comes new, specific casting requirements. Not only does the opera have Figaro and Susana as undocumented immigrants from Mexico, but many characters from different ethnic backgrounds. These characters bring different perspectives not only to the stage, but behind the scenes.
“It is a great step forward for representation on stage,” Einhorn said. “It’s amazing to look out into the rehearsal room to see such a diverse bunch of singers.”
The Chautauqua Opera Young Artists make up the cast for ¡Figaro! (90210). Many of the Young Artists are from an array of backgrounds and experiences, bringing a different outlook to their characters. Throughout the rehearsal process, Einhorn said it was more of his job to listen, especially when it comes to character development.
“It’s been about turning the conversation outward to talk to everybody in the cast as we discover who these characters are,” Einhorn said. “There has to be a big element of themselves brought to it.”
For this opera, the audience will be able to sit on the stage. The set isn’t extravagant, with only certain required pieces to show the story is in a modern Beverly Hills mansion. Einhorn said the opera is about the story, not about the spectacle.
“Whenever I work on The Marriage of Figaro, whether it’s Mozart’s original or this, for me this is all about people,” Einhorn said. “I like creating a space where the characters drive the storytelling.”
¡Figaro! (90210) will be performed five times by Chautauqua Opera, which is a long run for the company. The Young Artists are new to the roles in this opera, and with less than three weeks to put the show together, it was an exciting thrill, Einhorn said.
“We’re starting with Young Artists that have never done these roles before, which in a lot of ways is really exciting because as a director you get to take them through that for the first time,” Einhorn said. “That’s a huge gift that I was given.”
He said this opera is not only a way to open conversations about certain national issues but also simply to see a beautiful story unfold.
“I think what you have to do is come in and allow yourself to be taken away by the incredible artistry of the company,” Einhorn said. “I hope people come in with an open mind to conversation and discussion about what the themes are.”
Steve Osgood, the general and artistic director of Chautauqua Opera, will lead a ¡Figaro! (90210) Operalogue at 2:30 p.m. today in Fletcher Music Hall.