- Clockwise from top left: Ashraf Sewailam, Judeth Shay Burns, Spencer Neill and Katherine Adam.
A cross-dresser, a flirtatious maid, a smartass valet, a middle-aged lecherous count and his lovelorn countess -- it's the story of mistaken identities, sex, and war among the classes, in Mozart's immortal opera The Marriage of Figaro.
Opera Theatre of the Rockies, under the artistic direction of Martile Rowland, presents this classic in Colorado Springs for the first time in over 30 years. When asked why Mozart, Rowland replied with a smile, "It's a masterpiece; it's a staple in opera theater and well, it's Mozart -- he's a musical genius." This young company, now in its sixth season, continues its dedication to the training and development of Colorado singers, and "now," said Rowland, "it's starting to pay off -- we have singers who have gone on to the Santa Fe Opera, Utah, among others -- our work with young singers is being noticed."
The production team is well assembled -- Rowland brought in her colleagues from Colorado College's summer Vocal Arts Symposium, stage director Steven LaCosse and music director James Allbritten. While this is their first collaboration for Opera Theatre of the Rockies LaCosse and Allbritten are longtime colleagues at North Carolina's School of the Arts. Creatively simpatico, this duo wielded a mighty baton at rehearsal. The scene was from Act II -- the Count confronts the Countess questioning her fidelity -- and as both Mr. LaCosse and Mr. Allbritten worked with the singers, the finer tuned the singing and acting became. By the conclusion of the rehearsal it was clear the singers were no longer marking their parts, but feeling and acting the scene. It was electric.
The opera lends itself to many interpretations, but Rowland's team strives to be faithful to the original. "I will not apologize for the art form or dumb it down," said Rowland. "Mozart is as relevant and viable today as it was over 200 years ago," noted Mr. Allbritten. "The themes are timeless," agreed LaCosse. "What's not to like?"
Indeed. Based on the play by French playwright, Pierre Beaumarchais, with a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte -- the story is the making of a Hollywood classic comedy. Boy to marry girl. Boy's boss (suffering from middle-aged crisis) lusts after girl. Girl has no interest in boss. Girl loves boy. Boy gets best friend job with boss. Best friend lusts after boss's wife. Boss's wife wants husband back -- uses girl to tempt. Older woman wants to marry boy. Older woman is boy's long-lost mother. Best friend dresses up like girl. Boss's wife dresses up like girl. Girl dresses up like boss's wife ... and the beat goes on! All of this is set to the masterful music of Mozart -- some of the most memorable ever written.
The cast features Judeth Shay Burns as Susanna, Spencer Neill as Figaro, Katherine Adam as the Countess, John Fulton, in his debut, as the Count, Sarah Leuwerke (also in her debut) as Cherubino, Ashraf Sewailam as Bartolo, Leslie Remmert Soich as Marcellina, Veronica Chapman-Smith as Barbarina and Arthur Van Dyck as Antonio.
"Artistry is earned not given," said Rowland. "It takes work and dedication to create an artist; we've assembled this great raw talent, and helped to give it shape and form. It's our mission." As for Figaro, Rowland concluded, "I want to give to the audience the best live representation of the world's greatest operas, and The Marriage of Figaro is definitely one of the best."
-- Carolyn Carroll
capsule Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
Presented by Opera Theatre of the Rockies (sung in English and Italian with supertitles)
Armstrong Theater, northeast corner of Cascade and Cache La Poudre
Friday, June 11 and Saturday, June 12 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, June 13 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$45, available at the Pikes Peak Center box office, 190 S. Cascade Ave. or 520-SHOW.