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The Greatest Stories Ever Sung

August 19, 2008

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    August 19, 2008
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    Opera Carolina News

The Greatest Stories Ever Sung

Charlotte, NC – It is often said that the book is better than its adaptation, but Opera Carolina would disagree. The mainstage productions of the 2008/2009 Season – Faust, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, and Turandot – all have their roots in some of the world’s most famous literature. Along their individual journeys from book to stage, some of the stories have been revised, embellished, or abridged. But at their core, each of these tales has continued to resonate with audiences over the centuries. From ink and paper to flamboyant costumes and booming song, opera transforms the old stories we all know into opulent productions we will never forget.

*** Faust: Marlowe and Goethe

Before Gounod’s 1859 opera, there were two famous adaptations of the German legend of Faust: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (1604) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust (1806, 1832). Perhaps best known for Faustus’ speech, “Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,” Marlowe’s play is just as controversial now as it was then, as it examines the complex relationship between God and humankind. Desiring to be as omnipotent and powerful as the Creator, Doctor Faustus sells his soul, an action that Marlowe makes sure will have serious theological and moral implications for the protagonist. While the opera’s overall plot is essentially the same, Marlowe’s ending describes an ambiguous fate for Faustus – although his body is destroyed by death, his friends mourn and give him a proper burial, suggesting a potential redemption. Two centuries later, Goethe’s Faust tells a similar story in two segments. Part One ends with a condemned Faust, while his beloved ascends to heaven after death. On the other hand, the second part offers a social critique of humanity and ends with the Lord intervening on Faust’s behalf, singing, “he who strives can earn redemption.”

The Figaro Trilogy

In 1775, Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais compiled what would become known as “The Figaro Trilogy.” Written during a period of French political and social upheaval, Beaumarchais created Figaro and Almaviva, characters indicative of the change in social attitudes before, during, and after the French Revolution. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro; based on Beaumarchais’ middle play, it soon became one of Mozart’s most famous works. In 1816, Gioachino Rossini composed his opera buffa, The Barber of Seville, as an adaptation of Beaumarchais’ first installment of the trilogy. The Barber’s first performance was deemed a failure because much of the audience consisted of friends and cohorts of Rossini's main rival. The second performance astounded the new, unbiased audience and the opera quickly became a huge success.

Turandot: Carlo Gozzi

Puccini’s Turandot has a different agenda than Carlo Gozzi’s original 1762 play. Gozzi’s Turandot is known for its light, sarcastic tone. While Puccini depicts Princess Turandot from a moral and ethical standpoint, Gozzi’s Turandot is prey to her emotions, displaying severe mood swings and bouts of cruelty. Instead of being the epitome of love and sincerity, love interest Prince Calàf is portrayed by Puccini as both a lost soul and philanderer. In 1926, Puccini utilized the essentials of Gozzi’s plot and transformed the characters into models of justice, sincerity, and love.

The 2008/2009 Season opens with Faust October 18, 23 & 26, followed by The Barber of Seville January 24, 25, 29 & 31, Love Notes February 14, The Marriage of Figaro March 7, 8, 12 & 14, and Turandot April 16, 18, & 19. All mainstage Opera Carolina productions will be performed at the Belk Theater in the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Love Notes will be held at Dana Auditorium at Queens University of Charlotte. Season tickets are available now ranging from $36 to $409 in your choice of 5-, 4-, 3-, or 2-opera plans. Single tickets range from $20 to $125 and are on sale now. Tickets may be ordered by calling 704.335.1010 or online at www.operacarolina.org. Consistently appearing in The Charlotte Observer’s “101 Things to Do in Charlotte,” check Opera Carolina off the list and be a part of the 2008/2009 season!
For further ticketing information, events, libretti, full cast listings and bios, informative podcasts, education information, and other opera news, visit www.operacarolina.org. All performances feature the Opera Carolina Chorus and The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. Opera Carolina would like to thank presenting sponsors: Time Warner Cable and The Hearst Corporation.

Founded in 1948 as the Charlotte Opera Association by a small group of volunteers, Opera Carolina is the largest professional opera company in the Carolinas with an operating budget of over $3.5 million. The mission of Opera Carolina is to inspire the region's diverse community through the presentation of excellent Opera, Operetta, Music Theater, and Education & Outreach programs that elevate the quality of life in the Carolinas. Opera Carolina is a community resource with a commitment to artistic excellence and community service.

Opera Carolina is supported by the Arts & Science Council-Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Inc., The North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the state of North Carolina, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Opera Carolina is a member of OPERA America.