The School of Music’s rendition of Le Nozze di Figaro has opened at Lincoln Hall, and with elegant period costumes, an expansive cast and a full orchestra, it is a sight and sound to behold. With stage direction by Portland State’s own Christine Meadows and orchestral conducting by Ari Pelto, a guest artist, the piece is PSU’s first opera of 2015.
For Hope McCaffrey, who plays Susanna, Figaro’s fiancé and one of the opera’s central characters, Le Nozze di Figaro marks her first major opera appearance.
“It’s been amazing, singing with a full orchestra, costumes, makeup, hair. It’s scary and overwhelming, but at the same time, so much fun,” McCaffrey said during an intermission of one of the opera’s last rehearsals before opening night.
According to McCaffrey–who got her undergraduate degree in history–Mozart is her favorite composer and Le Nozze di Figaro is her favorite piece amongst his works.
“It’s sort of been like a whirlwind because, you know, we just had staging rehearsals for weeks and we were doing music rehearsals before that and now, just in a few days, it’s sort of all these different elements coming together,” McCaffrey said.
According to her, PSU is the only school in Oregon that does a full opera production each year.
“I hope everybody comes,” McCaffrey said. “PSU has one of the best opera programs on the West Coast.”
Emily Skeen plays Marcellina, a housekeeper who—from the outset of the opera—tries to get Figaro to marry her. According to Skeen, one of her favorite things about Le Nozze di Figaro is that, as the second of Beaumarchais’s three Figaro plays, it lends itself to being able to play on its characters as they progress through the trilogy.
“Even though it’s a comedy and even though in operas, sometimes, our emotions are very dramatized, and we don’t really get to delve into it in this opera; the characters are so dynamic,” Skeen said. “Even though it’s a four-act opera, you aren’t sitting there like, ‘OK, I’m really bored, we’ve been here four three hours’—it’s like, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ and it’s really exciting.”
She added that much of what makes the play dynamic is its frequent plot twists and propensity to have characters change sides throughout its conflicts.
“You have tons and tons of other characters who have a very interesting emotional stake in what’s going on,” Skeen said. “You think, originally, ‘Oh, Marriage of Figaro, I’m going to really, really care about this character, [Figaro]’ and you go on such an emotional journey with each character from beginning to end.”
Ethan Reviere is one of the opera singers playing Don Basilio in the School of Music’s performances of Le Nozze di Figaro. According to Reviere, though he has worked on other operas before, this is his first Italian language opera—something which presents its own unique challenges.
“The style is really different…well, really, the differences are working with the language and the style of the piece and singing it with character,” Reviere said.
He added that during the early stages of the opera’s rehearsals, he spent lots of time spent learning Italian stresses.
“It’s definitely opened my eyes a little more and showed me just how much goes into the language itself,” Reviere said. “So much nuance and flow. The flow of the language is different, and it’s very pleasant.”
Le Nozze di Figaro will continue its run at Lincoln Hall until the afternoon of April 26, the opera’s final showing.