About a quarter into the opera, when the soldiers shuffle around stage, after the prima donna has belted out her first shrilly aria, when the villain, the hero, and the chorus are on stage, and when the orchestra is just hitting their stride, you ask yourself, “Is all this really necessary? Do these singers caked in makeup and in bright velvety clothes need to move about on this tiny stage acting out scenes that would never happen in real life? And do we, the audience, need to be here with them, watching them, supporting all this Italian nonsense?
Then you realize it’s a metaphor. All art is. The reason Almaviva disguised himself twice is because all he wants is love, and people will stop at nothing to get love. And the reason Figaro helps and concocts such wild schemes is because love itself is wild and knows no boundaries and he too is a metaphor for Cupid, the God of Love. And Don Basilio and Bartolo are not so evil as they are loyal, loyal to love, and loyal to their fellow man to help him find love.
And then as you stare deeper down into stage at the small charming perfomers shrilling and pacing about the stage, the metaphor suddenly feels stronger. For the audience, it is an act of observation of life in melodramatic pantomime that reveals small and large truths along the way, most about the arrest of conflict and tension and the emergence of happiness and redemption. For the actors and orchestra however, it is real life. They sing and play their little hearts out as though their lives depended on it, and in doing so, become the character of the art itself—the surrogate of all emotion—for the audience that came to suspend belief and be entertained. Yet that same audience knows behind the acting is a real person whose job it is to sing and act as trut to the art as possible, and that audience knows those players get to be on that stage only if they give all they’ve got their whole lives and work and sweat and cry and battle themselves and their peers to get to that place where they can render at once happiness and sadness, and, with their instrument, manipulate tension and love. Their art is to mimic, sometimes mock like, and though the audience watches it as performance, it’s just as real as real life. It indeed becomes a necessary.