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Fall Opera Scenes: the plots

October 19, 2009

On October 30 and 31, Yale Opera will present two evenings of opera scenes. To whet your appetite, here are synopses of the scenes to be performed. All synopses are by Grant Meachum. Tickets to the Opera Scenes range from $8 to $12 and are available online or at the box office (203 432-4158).

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31

Navarraise 012 webLE NOZZE DI FIGARO Act II
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, KV 492

Prior to the scene: Figaro and Susanna are to be married.  Susanna is troubled by the Count’s romantic interest in her, but Figaro is confident the Count can be outwitted.  The Count is frustrated by Cherubino’s constant flirtations.  Marcellina, Basilio, and Bartolo are plotting to force Figaro to marry Marcellina to settle an old debt.

The Countess laments that her husband no longer loves her.  Figaro and Susanna hatch a plot to change the Count’s behavior: they will schedule a romantic meeting between the Count and Susanna but send Cherubino (disguised as a women) instead of Susanna.  Cherubino sings a love song he has written for the Countess and Susanna begins to dress him as a woman for the meeting with the Count.  Before the dressing is finished, the Count arrives; Cherubino hides in a closet, but the Count is suspicious that the Countess is hiding a lover there.  The Countess claims Susanna is in the closet but refuses to open the door.  As the Count leaves to get tools to break down the door, Susanna sneaks into the closet and helps Cherubino escape out a window.

The Countess admits that Cherubino is in the closet, and both she and the Count are amazed when Susanna instead emerges.  Figaro returns to let everyone know the wedding is ready to begin.  The gardner Antonio interrupts, furious over the damage to his garden caused by Cherubino falling through the window.  Figaro claims it was he who fell into the garden, and avoids the Count’s accusatory questions.  Marcellina, Basilio, and Bartolo enter to state their case against Figaro, and the Count is thrilled to have an excuse to postpone the wedding.

HAMLET, Act III
Music by Ambroise Thomas

Prior to the Scene: Following the death of Hamlet’s father, his uncle Claudius has ascended to the throne and married Hamlet’s mother Gertrude.  Hamlet is betrothed to Ophélie, the daughter of the court chancellor Polonius, but she doubts his love.  The ghost of Hamlet’s father visits Hamlet and tells him that it was Claudius who murdered him and asks Hamlet to avenge the murder.

Hamlet struggles with his doubts about avenging his father’s murder.  He finds the king praying and hears a conversation between Claudius and Polonius that confirms their responsibility for the murder.  Hamlet is repulsed by Polonius’s role in his father’s death and rejects his mother’s suggestion that he marry Ophélie.  During their argument, Hamlet draws a dagger to kill his mother, but he is stopped by the ghost of his father.

RUSALKA, Excerpt from Act II
Music by Antonín Dvorák

Prior to the scene: Rusalka loves a human, the Prince, who swims in the lake where she lives.  She asks a witch to make her a human in order to find love.  The witch warns her that if she is transformed and does not find love, she will be damned forever.  The witch turns Rusalka human, but she cannot speak.  The Prince finds Rusalka by the lake and falls in love.

The Prince and Rusalka are to be married, but the Prince is frustrated by her inability to speak.  He tells her that he loves her, and is then chided by a visiting princess for neglecting his guests.  Rusalka’s father Vodník appears in the lake to lament Rusalka’s fate.  Rusalka runs to her father, recovers her voice, and begs him to help her.  The Prince confesses to the Foreign Princess that he has become dissatisfied with Rusalka and instead declares his love for the Foreign Princess.  Rusalka runs to him, but he dismisses her.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31

Navarraise 069 webDON PASQUALE, Excerpts from Act I scenes 1 and 2
Music by Gaetano Donizetti

Scene 1: Don Pasquale is determined to marry and father an heir more dependable than his nephew Ernesto, who is infatuated with Norina.  Pasquale consults his physician Dr. Malatesta, who promises to arrange a marriage for Pasquale to Malatesta’s young, virtuous sister.  (In fact, Malatesta is secretly scheming to arrange for Norina and Ernesto to be married).  Pasquale is invigorated at the thought of marriage.

Scene 2: Norina laughs while reading an old-fashioned tale of chivalry – she knows that her charms are the best way to win a lover.  Malatesta visits her and together they plot a way to fool Pasquale and help Norina marry Ernesto.

LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, Excerpts from Act I scene 2 and Act II scene 1
Music by Gaetano Donizetti

Prior to the scenes: The Ashton and Ravenswood families are at war and the Ashton fortune is in jeopardy.  Lucia can save the family’s fortunes by marrying the wealthy Arturo, but she is in love with Edgardo Ravenswood, her brother’s sworn enemy.  Her brother has learned of her love for Edgardo through a subordinate and wishes to force her marriage to Arturo.

Act I scene 2: Edgardo tells Lucia that he must leave the next morning, but asks to end the feud with her family before he goes and make their love public.  Fearing her brother’s furious response, Lucia begs Edgardo to keep their love secret.  They exchange rings and vow that they are married.

Act II scene 1: Enrico comments that Lucia looks ill, and that marriage will revive her.  She tells him of her love for Edgardo, but Enrico produces a forged letter to make it appear that Edgardo has been unfaithful to her.  Enrico takes advantage of Lucia’s shock at this revelation to remind her that she can save the family by marrying Arturo.  She reluctantly agrees.

L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI, Act I scene 2
Music by Gioacchino Rossini

Prior to the scene: The Bey of Algiers has tired of his current wife and commands his servant to find him a new Italian wife to replace her.  The Bey’s Italian slave Lindoro laments the loss of his Italian beloved, Isabella.

Isabella has been captured by the Bey’s servant.  She laments the capture, but remains confident in her skill of taming men.  She is annoyed by the constant romantic attention of her companion Taddeo.  They argue, but decide that in their current situation it is best that they stick together.

THE RAKE’S PROGRESS, Act III scene 2
Music by Igor Stravisnsky

Prior to the scene: Tom Rakewell has left his idyllic country life with Anne Trulove after falling under the spell and the false promise of a fortune from the devilish Nick Shadow.  Tom has subsequently lost his fortune and suffered a series of personal failures.

Tom and Nick Shadow meet in a graveyard, where Shadow demands Tom’s soul in payment for the services he has provided.  As Tom ponders his horrible fate, Shadow offers him the option of gambling for his soul: Shadow will cut the deck three times and Tom must guess which card he is holding. Tom guesses all three cards correctly in spite of Shadow’s attempts to cheat.  Defeated, Shadow sings into a grave, but exacts his revenge by condemning Tom to insanity.  Tom imagines himself as Adonis, waiting for his Venus.

MANON, Act III scene 2
Music by Jules Massenet

Prior to the scene: Manon runs away to Paris with Chevalier des Grieux to escape a sheltered life.  She leaves him after being lured back to her old life by the promise of marrying a wealthy older man.  At a party, she hears from the Chevalier’s father Comte des Grieux that the Chevalier is about to become a priest.  She is overcome and hurries to meet him at St. Sulpice.

The Comte des Grieux tries to convince his son not to become a priest.  The Chevalier prays for peace of mind and leaves to take his holy orders.  Manon arrives and prays to God for forgiveness.  The Chevalier angrily dismisses her, but she begs him to remember their past love.  He relents and they are reunited.

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