Jane Glover, who conducts “The Marriage of Figaro” at the Wheeler Opera House this week, has studied it throughout her career and feels it is a masterpiece with “extraordinary chemistry of Lorenzo da Ponte and Mozart.”
“There were two geniuses at work here,” Glover said recently. “The libretto that da Ponte wrote for ‘Figaro’ enhanced by Mozart’s insights, making it one of the great partnerships in all of history.”
“The Marriage of Figaro” premiered at Vienna’s Burgtheater on May 1, 1786. It was an instant hit with critics and audiences and it remains one of the most produced operas in the repertoire.
It was based on a French stage play by Beaumarchais, which had originally been banned by the emperor because it contained a number of angry denounciations of the aristocracy — not a theme likely to endear itself to the head of the Viennese aristocracy. Da Ponte persuaded him, however, that he would be able to replace the offensive political dialogue against the nobility with an aria, equally furious, against unfaithful wives, and so the emperor agreed to let them proceed.
As perhaps the most respected Mozart conductor in the world right now, Glover sees more in Figaro each time she works on it. She first conducted it as an Oxford student where it wasn’t part of her academic musical degree.
To her surprise, it was widely and favorably reviewed outside the university.
“Conducting ‘Figaro’ at Oxford taught me more than anything else I learned in my undergraduate years,” she said.
This Aspen production is Glover’s 12th production of “Figaro.”
“I’ve conducted ‘Figaro’ in a dozen different productions and I learn something new every time,” she said. “Each one is different, and with this wonderful young cast we’re working through every moment, going into the minutae of the score, and there are new insights in every line.”
This week’s performances, directed by Edward Berkeley, head of the Aspen Music Festival and School’s Aspen Opera Center, are in da Ponte’s original Italian and are in modern dress.
Glover supports modern dress performances, pointing out that Shakespeare’s plays were performed in the vernacular dress of his time.
“I’m all for it as long as it’s in the spirit of the piece. With ‘Figaro,’ though, you have to maintain the separation of masters and servants because that’s essential to the understanding of the opera,” Glover said. “There has to be a hierarchical structure for it to work so they can’t all be dressed alike.”
This collaboration is the fifth for Glover and Berkeley.
With a schedule of conducting engagements all over the world with top orchestras and opera companies, Glover comes back to Aspen each year to work with singers and musicians who are at the beginning of their careers.
“I’ve always loved working with young people, even when I was that age myself,” she said. “I love being around the energy of young talent. And the level of talent here is remarkable.”