Mozart, Beverly Hills, and Illegal Immigrants: An Unlikely Trio Figaro 90210
LA Opera, Opera UCLA, ArcLight Cinemas, and a whole list of other organizations all over Los Angeles are currently in the middle of a grand project called “Figaro Unbound.” This three-month celebration, “investigate[s] the ongoing relevance of Figaro,” and the French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais.  “His trilogy of Figaro plays—The Barber of Seville (1775), The Marriage of Figaro (1784) and The Guilty Mother (1792)—captured staggering changes in social attitudes of the late 18th century.”  These plays were eventually adapted into operas by such names as Paisiello, Salieri, and Massenet.
One of the world’s most famous opera adaptions of Beaumarchais’ play is “The Marriage of Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The story centers around an adulterous Count and two of his employees who are nearing their wedding day. For a short three days on January 16-18, 2015, LA Opera and lyricist Vid Guerrerio premiered a wonderful new adaptation of this classical Mozart masterpiece under the name “Figaro 90210.” 
The differences between Mozart and Guerrerio’s operas were quite drastic, yet the changes made by Guerrerio were strangely (in a good way) loyal to the original. For instance, the late 18th century Spanish setting was replaced by a modern day Beverly Hills (zip code 90210). In the original Mozart opera, the main characters Figaro and Susana are a Count’s barber and servant respectively. In this new adaptation by Guerrerio, Figaro and Susana were illegal Mexican immigrants who are a handyman and a house keeper in a Beverly Hills mansion. Cleverly enough, instead of the Count trying to sleep with Susana by exercising his “droit du seigneur” (a supposed medieval European law allowing a feudal lord to bed his servant girl on the eve of her wedding), the owner of the mansion tries to sleep with Susana with the promise of a visa and subsequent green card. Though the original score by Mozart was used (albeit reduced from a full orchestra to a string quintet, guitar, and piano), the famous Italian libretto was replaced by a brand new English (mixed with Spanish) libretto by Vid Guerrerio.
In much the same way that Beaumarchais’ plays reflected European society back then, Guerrerio’s adaptation perfectly captured the essence of modern day Los Angeles. In addition to Figaro and Susana being undocumented Mexican workers, a budding teenage rapper replaced the 18th century Count’s page boy and an aging Hollywood starlet trophy wife replaced the Countess. Though the opera is a comedy, it is a relatively straight forward comment on the illegal immigrant issue that is always on the minds of Angelenos and Americans all over the country. In the final scenes of the opera, Figaro finds out that he was U.S. born all along, and that Susana could lawfully apply for a green card once she marries him. Reality, however, is not that bright and simple for undocumented workers living “in hiding” all over Los Angeles.
President Obama’s Executive Action
On November 20, 2014, President Obama unveiled his executive action pertaining to the current U.S. immigration policy.  This will hopefully help out a large part of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and let them come out of “hiding.”  A key part of this action relieves countless people of the constant fear of deportation. The old immigration policy ripped apart families by deporting undocumented immigrant parents while the U.S.-born children stayed. This executive action will allow those illegal immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have resided in the country for at least five years to receive a legal reprieve. Many will also be allowed to apply for and receive work permits.  It is estimated that 4 million illegal immigrants will be directly affected by this action.  Though 4 million out of 11 million is a minority, this action still protects a vastly large number of people. As more undocumented immigrants apply for this legal protection all over the country, more and more people are able to finally breathe the sigh of relief Figaro and Susana did at the end of Figaro 90210.
Sources http://www.laopera.org/Community/Figaro-Unbound/  http://www.laopera.org/Community/Figaro-Unbound/  http://www.laopera.org/Community/Figaro-Unbound/  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/19/your-complete-guide-to-obamas-immigration-order/#order  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/19/your-complete-guide-to-obamas-immigration-order/#order  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/19/your-complete-guide-to-obamas-immigration-order/#order  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/19/your-complete-guide-to-obamas-immigration-order/#order
Photo By: Xeeliz under Creative Commons License.