Monday, May 07, 2007

Opera Update

I went to an opera yesterday: The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart. I was tired, having had a long night on Saturday, when I attended the Minnesota Books Awards and my book, the fine press version of The Grammarian’s Five Daughters, did NOT win. So I dozed a little in the last act of Figaro. But I saw most of it, and heard all of it, I think.

It’s a wonderful opera about social class and sexual access to women. I am not kidding. This is not me reading in. The opera is based on the politically explosive Beaumarchais play, written on the eve of the French Revolution and banned in imperial Vienna.

Count Almaviva plots to have sex with his wife’s maid Susanna, though he has sworn to give up his noble right – the droit de seigneur -- to have sex with new brides. Susanna struggles to protect herself; and Figaro struggles to protect his fiancée. Because they have no power, they must use trickery.

Besides being an opera about the control of female sexuality, it is also about female loyalty: Susanna and the countess are very much a team; and it is about the shared interest that one upper class woman, the countess, has with the lower classes.

Anyway, there is a lot of commedia dell arte fooling around and really splendid music.

The opera ends with Susannah safe and the count reconciled with his wife. But I just know the count is going to cheat again. How can he help it, being a lascivious noble played by a long, lean, panther-like baritone with a terrific voice?

So I wrote a poem about what happens next…

After the Count Has One Affair Too Many

The countess retires to a convent;
her servants open a shop
in the little village at the bottom of the hill.
He cuts hair in the back room.
She sells trinkets in the front.
Soon enough there are children.

Once a week Susanna climbs the stony road
under the hot Spanish sun
or in a winter drizzle.
Rosina waits in a cool, grey room
“My lady.” Susanna drops a curtsy.
“My dear friend.” They sit and sew.

Mending clothing, Susanna speaks
of the children, her husband, village gossip.
Rosina sets stitches in an altar cloth and listens.

The count writes from Madrid or Seville,
begging forgiveness, a reconciliation.
“Not yet,” Rosina replies.
“Mozart is fine, but there is quieter music -- ”
Rain on the roof tiles,
the nuns’ robes whispering on stone,
Susanna’s voice, sharp with gossip and love.


Blogger Haddayr said...

I love this poem!

Marriage of Figaro is one of my favorite operas.

2:36 PM  

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