Left to right: Figaro (Tyler Simpson), Susanna (Joélle Harvey), Count (Christian Bowers) and Countess Almaviva (Danielle Pastin)

“The same themes people love in movies are found in opera. We have sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” said Danielle Pastin, who sings the lead of Countess Almaviva in Pittsburgh Opera’s upcoming performance of The Marriage of Figaro at the Benedum Center from Nov. 4-12. While Ms. Pastin was only joking about opera having rock and roll, it does have compelling story lines, timeless music, and extraordinarily talented singers.

“I think many have a misconception that opera is a hoity-toity, high art form that is difficult to enjoy,” Ms. Pastin said. “But I encourage everyone to give it a try.” Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is a beloved favorite of opera aficionados, and it is also a wonderful production to take in for those who are new to opera.

Figaro (Tyler Simpson) and his fiancée Susanna (Joélle Harvey)

The comedy tells the tale of Figaro, who is in love with the Countess Almaviva’s servant Susanna, who he plans to wed. But Count Almaviva, who employs Figaro and Susanna, also has designs on Susanna–so much so, that the Count plans to invoke the hated feudal practice of droit de seigneur, the right of the lord to bed a commoner’s bride on her wedding night. Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess are horrified by his plan, and conspire to thwart the lecherous Count and teach him a lesson.

Count (Christian Bowers) and Countess Almaviva (Danielle Pastin)

Those not familiar with The Marriage of Figaro will be pleasantly surprised to realize how much the opera is ingrained in our culture and how familiar some of the opera’s music is. “From the overture to the Sull ’aria duet, most people will know these from commercials and movies,” said Pastin. In fact, the overture has been featured in films such as Trading Places, The King’s Speech, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Zombieland. In the Shawshank Redemption Tim Robbins’ character played “Sull ‘aria” over the prison loudspeaker.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of opera,” said Pastin. “I encourage everyone to give it a try.”


By Janice Lane Palko

*Photos provided by David Bachman Photography