Andrew Stuckey is a man who loves opera. So much so that when asked why opera is important, his response was rather blunt.
“You might as well ask, ‘What’s the deal with feelings, or emotion?’” he said.
To Stuckey, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and accomplished baritone singer with a quarter century of experience, music is a means of communication with a much greater depth of expression and universality than the simple spoken (or written) word.
He’s performed in Falstaff and La Traviata, and those with more knowledge of the operatic arts than I have called Stuckey “a respected interpreter of the Verdi baritone roles” whose vocal agility ranges “from pensive whispers to despairing outbursts.”
He’s traveled the world with his voice, and now Stuckey plans to bring his impassioned view of opera to Oro Valley next week when he partners with the Opera Guild of Southern Arizona to present a preview of “Le nozze di Figaro” (“The Marriage of Figaro”) ahead of Arizona Opera’s run of the same show.
Premiering in 1786, “The Marriage of Figaro” is a comedic opera composed by none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Based on a play by the same name from French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, the tale is the second part of the Figaro trilogy. The trilogy begins with “The Barber of Seville,” continues in “Figaro” and ends in “The Guilty Mother.”
Though he’s been involved with a long list of operas, Stuckey called “Figaro” a “very special” composition that he is excited to explain to opera experts and rookies alike in Oro Valley.
“It is one of the more brilliant works of art of all time,” Stuckey said.
In the first installment, Count Almaviva falls in love with a woman named Rosine, and enlists the help of Figaro, a local barber, to ensure the woman reciprocates his adoration. All goes to plan, and the tale ends with a wedding.
The count finds love in the first play, and by the time “The Marriage of Figaro” takes place, it’s time for the title character to marry a wife of his own. As is so often the case in dramatic tales, a wrench is thrown in the gears when the count—no longer the romantic he was in the first story—demands to sleep with Figaro’s wife before the two may wed.
According to Stuckey, “it’s one of the all-time bastard moves.”
While the narrative of lovers scorned is universal, the tale of “Figaro” also demonstrates the servant class overcoming the misguided desires of their master, and female characters who are fully developed and possessing of their own wit and intelligence. Oftentimes, the male characters are trying to figure out what’s going on while the women orchestrate the action.
“You have this librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, who gave Mozart characters to write, and Mozart had the genius to take these characters and musically illustrate them in a way that when you compare it to other works of the time, is far and above what else is there,” Stuckey said.
While Stuckey leads the hour-long presentation, Chrstal Kachevas (soprano), Simon Faddoul (bass-baritone) and Sarah Elizabeth Redlhammer (soprano) will sing select moments from the opera. All three are currently studying at the University of Arizona, either as underclassman or graduate students. The trio will be joined by pianist Kyung Sun Choi, who’s performed in previous previews for the opera guild.
According to Susan Lee Stokes, a soprano whose performed over 40 roles across the country who helped bring “The Marriage of Figaro” to Oro Valley, the preview is the perfect opportunity to hear rising young singers.
“This is talent that’s in our community right now,” she said. “That’s important, to support our local talent.”
Catch “The Marriage of Figaro” preview in Oro Valley Monday, April 1 at 2 p.m. at the Oro Valley Town Hall Council Chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive. The preview moves to Grace–St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 2331 E. Adams St., Friday, April 5 at noon. Both events are free.