You’re a Georgia native. What is it like to direct a show so close to home?
To be perfectly honest, I've been so focused on staging the show, I've hardly taken a moment to soak it all in! However, it has been quite a few years since I've been on the East Coast in the spring, and I had forgotten how perfectly breathtaking it is when everything starts blooming. This is such a gorgeous city... it is a real pleasure to be back in my native land.
In recent years, you've worked as an assistant director in several major opera houses. What have you learned as an AD that you've applied as a stage director?
The job of a big house AD is very intense and requires a very long list of skills that you might not use as often when you are in the director chair, most having to do with organization and large scale communication. As an AD I've developed a strong appreciation for the many technicians and production staff that make the “magic” happen behind the scenes. I've also gotten a lot of experience working with huge choruses, and have really learned to love how a chorus can help bring the stage to life and amplify the story.
What are some of your favorite moments, musically or theatrically, in The Marriage of Figaro?
Where to begin?! Well, maybe at the beginning... when the curtain rises we meet Figaro and Susanna, busily preparing for their wedding day. I just love the hustle and bustle, the playfulness and charm of these adorable people who are so clearly in love. Another favorite moment is the Figaro/Susanna duet in the finale of Act 4. There is a huge amount of physical comedy in that section, and it ends when Figaro brings it all to a halt with a big kiss. The two end up giggling on floor together. Musically and dramatically it is really satisfying.
What is the most complicated scene to direct in this opera?
This entire opera feels like a three-ring circus from start to finish, with only small pause for breath during the Countess's arias and Susanna's Act 4 aria. The rest of the time it is non-stop action. A household run by Figaro and Susanna would be nothing less! Probably the most physically (and mentally?) demanding scene is the finale of Act 4. There is an awful lot of back and forth, with ladies in disguise, wrong exits, and intense wooing in the dark. Keeping up with it all is a real trick!
This show has several strong female characters. What’s your take on their relationships and their world?
I love the women of Nozze. They are smart and strong, and when they get hurt, they shed a tear and then they pick themselves back up again. In another opera, the Countess would probably go lose her mind when faced with her husband's infidelities. We would end with a mad scene and suicide. Not our Countess! She calls up the smartest lady she knows (Susanna) and makes a plan.
What advice would you give to an audience member enjoying The Marriage of Figaro for the first time?
Fasten your seatbelt! This is an opera that is filled to the brim with gorgeous and amusing tunes, and they are sung by genuine, fully-developed characters experiencing all the many aspects of love. Please laugh, but also allow yourself to feel the pain of the Countess when she realizes she no longer holds interest for her husband, or the jealousy and heartache of Figaro when he discovers he has been laughing at his own expense. Relish how generously Mozart expends his beautiful music... even the most ludicrous moments are exquisitely beautiful, because he has tunes to spare. This is an amazing cast, and I think it will be quite clear why this is one of the most beloved operas of all time.