Master of Creative Arts - Research
Faculty of Creative Arts
McDonald, Rachel, Almaviva: a contemporary adaptation of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, MCA-Res thesis, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong, 2006. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/735
Almaviva: A Contemporary Adaptation of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro
Almaviva is a creative project, consisting of the text and score for a musical based on Mozart’s opera Le Nozze di Figaro as well as a supporting essay on the nature of adaptation. The musical is based on a heavily reduced version of the Figaro score. Half the opera score is cut, although the “greatest hits” remain, and nearly all the recitative is replaced with dialogue.
The Almaviva text is entirely original. The new text sets the Figaro story in a contemporary work-place and has an informal, vernacular quality. It is designed for performance by six singers accompanied by a piano. The piece was first workshopped by students at the University of Wollongong in 2005, performing in a variety of vocal styles and with a very sparse set. Almaviva is designed for flexibility and for touring.
The musical does not pre-suppose any prior exposure to opera or to the Figaro story. It aims for accessibility, and seeks to avoid operatic convention wherever possible. Almaviva is an experiment which seeks to radically transform the source while preserving some of its beauty. Almaviva is not a satire, but a free-standing work which uses the opera for scaffolding.
This scaffolding includes the original score and Italian libretto, as well as the French play by Beaumarchais upon which the libretto is based. Almaviva is a third generation adaptation. The accompanying essay (Introduction) considers various aspects of adaptation, including authorship, translation, music setting and crossing genres. Central to this investigation are different ideas about fidelity to the source being adapted. For example, although Almaviva is a very free adaptation it seeks to recognise and preserve musical effect.
The essay also considers the connection between adaptation and originality. Originality seems an odd quality in an adaptation, yet adaptations are frequently original, because immersion in a deeply creative work encourages creativity. Successful adaptation releases energy in two ways: For new audiences the adaptation works like any effective work of art, and the energy is derived from the successful expression of ideas. For audiences aware of the original work there is additional energy released by the re-contextualising of the familiar. The essay deliberately avoids assessing the effectiveness of Almaviva, but describes some of the major adaptations made to the Figaro story in all its incarnations paying particular attention to Almaviva.