Fans of “The Marriage of Figaro,” you have a tough decision to make.
This month, three different Brooklyn opera companies will be performing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte’s comic tale of love, jealously, and deception, with productions by upstarts LoftOpera and Opera in the Slope, alongside Bay Ridge stalwart Regina Opera Company.
The timing is pure coincidence, though not so unusual — “Figaro” is the eighth most-performed opera in the world, according to opera database Operabase, and its arias are recognizable even to those who have never set foot in an opera house.
“Anybody who’s ever seen or heard the word ‘opera’ has heard of ‘The Marriage of Figaro,’” said Fran Garber, chair of the Regina Opera Company, whose production kicks off with a free preview in on Nov. 12. “Some operas have one or two hit tunes — this has eight or nine.”
For LoftOpera, an “underground” opera company that launched in the spring with a production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” “Figaro” was a reliable choice for its sophomore show because of this audience familiarity.
“It’s really attractive because it is so well-known,” said LoftOpera founder Daniel Ellis-Ferris, whose production runs Nov. 7–9 in Gowanus. “People know that if they go to something titled ‘the Marriage of Figaro,’ they’re going to enjoy it.”
At the same time, “Figaro” is one of the hardest operas to stage, said Ellis-Ferris, because of its many, interweaving plot-lines. Following one single day of madness at the palace of Count Almaviva in Seville, Spain, the opera revolves around the marriage of the servants Figaro and Susanna, which the Count is trying to thwart.
Clocking in at almost four hours, most companies today choose to abridge the complicated story to keep up with modern attention spans. Still, for Regina, whose production is the longest of the three, it was important to be as faithful as possible to the original — in both the libretto and the costumes. “We’re using period costumes, what I call the ‘Ben Franklin look,’” said Garber (think wigs, britches, and vests.) “We are doing it as the composer wrote it, from the scenery to the costumes.”
Opera in the Slope will also have traditional costumes, but is taking some theatrical license with its set. Producer Carlos Jimeno is building a giant house of cards, which he says symbolizes the fragile society of the day and class differences emphasized in the drama.
“This screen would give the idea of the possible collapse of society,” said Jimeno, who will play the Count in his production, opening Nov. 16. “It is also very useful to hide people, which happens a lot.”
In a departure from its borough counterparts, LoftOpera won’t be using strict period dress, and its “Figaro” promises to be immersive and in-your-face.
“People aren’t used to being so close to an operatic voice,” said Ellis-Ferris. “It’s never stripped so bare.”
Though Brooklyn will be marrying “Figaro” three times in November, in three different ways, the companies say they aren’t too worried about the competition.
“The more the better, as far as we are concerned,” said Garber. “There are three million people in Brooklyn, so certainly we all have enough seats for everyone to come and see the opera.”
LoftOpera at Gowanus Lofts [91 Ninth St. between Smith Street and Second Avenue in Gowanus, (347) 763–2210, www.gowanusloft.com], Nov. 7–9 at 8 pm. Tickets $20. Regina Opera at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School [5902 Sixth Ave. at 59th Street in Bay Ridge, (718) 259–2772, www.reginaopera.org], Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 16–24 at 3 pm, $20–$25. There will be a free performance on Nov. 12 at 7:30 pm. Opera in the Slope at Old First Reformed Church [729 Carroll St. at Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, (718) 407–9872], Nov. 16 at 6 pm and Nov. 17 at 4 pm, $18, $15 in advance.