Learn Italian with Tyler Simpson Who Portrays Figaro in ‘The Marriage of Figaro’

I always heard the name but never knew the story. Q&A with Tyler Simpson who plays Figaro in the Pittsburgh Opera’s version of “The Marriage Of Figaro.”

Christina Jeter

Tyler Simpson plays Figaro in the four-act, 3-hour opera production of The Marriage of Figaro, which is sung in Italian but has English subtitles projected above the stage during all performances. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is one of the most popular comic operas of all time. Based on the play by Pierre Beaumarchais, The Marriage of Figaro is a sequel to The Barber of Seville, which Pittsburgh Opera performed at the Benedum Center in 2016.

Figaro, the happy bachelor at the end of The Barber of Seville, is in love with the Countess’s servant Susanna, who he plans to wed that very day. Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess are understandably outraged at this possibility and are determined not only to prevent it but to teach the Count a lesson while they’re at it.

What is the story behind you wanting to become a performer?

I was still in school, studying to be a doctor. I joined a choir to have something else to do. Then I started to meet all these fun people who were in the musical theater and Opera department. I liked them so much, that I started asking them questions about what they do. Meanwhile, I am there just trying to meet girls, and before long I was enjoying it so much that I said to myself, ‘Gosh, I need to take this more seriously.’ So, I gave it a go and started taking some voice lesson, studying some languages, and never quit. I changed majors, started a whole new degree and never looked back.

What is your favorite thing about Pittsburgh?

One of me, my wife and newborn son’s favorite thing about Pittsburgh is the aviary. Our little baby boy liked it so much because he could watch the all the birds wandering around and would try to grab at them. The Pittsburgh Aviary was so cool.

How did you learn about the title role in ‘The Marriage of Figaro’?

This is a part that I have done several times before. I’ve done it a few times in school, and I did it for a company in North Carolina about 6 or 7 months ago. When other opera companies are moving forward with producing a show like The Marriage of Figaro, they can look at an online database to see who had done it recently. So, they see Tyler Simpson has done it and knows the role, then they can call the company and ask, “Was he a jerk to work with?” and if I did a good job after they do their due diligence they can contact my agent & ask if I’m available.

Since the performance is in Italian, were you already fluent in the language?

When you’re studying to become an Opera singer, one of the most important tasks is learning the languages. Italian, French, German, sometimes even Russian and Czech. It’s not only to become fluent in the meaning of what you are saying but to make sure your diction is perfect, so you can speak the language as a native speaker would. So that is something the performers work on very much so, to make sure we sing the lyrics as a true Italian would.

Why should the public take a chance and come see ‘The Marriage of Figaro’?

This is one of the very best operas to come see, especially if you have never been to the opera before. It is a super funny show, with all kinds of quirky moments. Our director has done an excellent job keeping the story plot line current. Like for example, with the Count running around sort of cheating on his wife, it kind of feels like the headlines we read about Harvey Weinstein.

Not speaking Italian won’t hinder you a bit, you will be able to enjoy it with or without translation every bit as much.

Any plans to do movies?

Mostly, in our world, we stick to opera and classical concerts, like symphonies, especially Beethoven and Mahler. Many symphonies need singers too. I don’t have any musicals or movies on the horizon for me, just mainly operas.

If ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ was performed in English with Italian subtitles, do you feel the passion of the message/performance would be as powerful?

A lot of places translate the opera and sing it in English. But I feel the text flows so much better in the original language. It sounds clunky to me in English, you know what I mean? But the flip side is that it can be more accessible for an English-speaking audience, so they don’t have to read the translations.

What is your favorite thing about the cast of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’?

Our cast is so fun, just a bunch of pranksters. I’ve had so much fun on this show, it’s been great!

How long are your rehearsals and how often do you have to do them? How long does it take to get you ready?

We got here on I think Oct. 15. So, we basically had 2 1/2 weeks of rehearsals, 6 days a week to get ready for this show, which is about 9 hours a day.

Make-up and hair is usually about 30 minutes per person.  It usually takes a while to get the makeup just right and the wig right, to make sure it is not going to fall off.

What do you hope the audience (children and adults) will learn and take away with them after watching this show?

The show is zany and fun, but the moral core of the show is forgiveness. I think that it is one of the best things you can take away – if someone has wronged you, can you find the power to forgive them?

The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is currently playing at the Benedum Center November 4, 7, 10 & 12, 2017.