For the first time on the Cullen Auditorium stage, and accompanied by an orchestra, the ACU Opera Workshop will perform Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” on March 29-30.
Though this production is a change from the department’s yearly main stage shows, Dr. Rick Piersall, associate professor of music and director of opera, says he plans to make the show more relatable for a modern audience.
“Since 1784, there’s been political scandal,” Piersall said. “We’re still having issues with this power and the manipulation of power.”
Piersall’s “Figaro” will be set in the White House during the Jefferson, Kennedy, Clinton and Trump presidencies. He plans to call attention to chapters of American history where, like in the opera, power was abused.
“Our modern American audience may not know it’s a satire of what aristocracy was like, but by setting it in the White House, we all know it’s political,” Piersall said.
The opera, which satirizes the aristocracy, faced criticism and was even banned when it premiered in the eighteenth century. Piersall says he hopes to make this satire more relatable for those in attendance- even those who may not regularly attend an opera production.
“We can identify with stuff that has been going on for a long time. [This] has been the topic of political satire way before Saturday Night Live,” Piersall said.
Piersall said he plans to take advantage of the satire of the opera, using comical wigs and other costume elements to emphasize the characters’ personalities. Because of its new location in Cullen, this year’s opera production will feature a more elaborate set and an orchestral accompaniment.
Piersall said that while the production will be a comedic satire of the aristocracy and its power, it will also highlight issues at the heart of today’s audience.
The #MeToo movement, which has been an active call for change in recent years, is something that Piersall hopes to bring to light in the production, as themes like sexual harassment and abuse of power are discussed throughout the opera.
“The MeToo movement didn’t start last year- those issues are old. Comedy has long been the agent of speech for political change,” Piersall said.