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John Lamb, Published April 09 2013

F-M Opera does follow-up to ‘Barber of Seville’

FARGO – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” may be the most famous sequel in the world, but it’s hardly your standard follow-up.

The Fargo-Moorhead Opera tackles the masterpiece this weekend after presenting the prequel, “The Barber of Seville,” in the fall.

Director of the Fargo-Moorhead Opera David Hamilton has looked forward to producing the works in the same season. He adds that with the exception of Richard Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, there aren’t many other related pieces, especially connected stories from different composers written out of order.

Mozart wrote the opera in 1786, 30 years before Gioachino Rossini’s prequel, “Barber” first hit the stage.

Both composers adapted their work from Pierre Beaumarchais’ plays from 1775 (“Barber) and 1781 (“Marriage”), respectively. Another musical take on “Barber” was staged by Giovanni Paisiello in 1782, but it didn’t stand the test of time like Rossini’s version.

The plays, and subsequent operas, were popular in their time because they took a swipe at the upper-class.

“It was kind of cutting edge,” says Hamilton. “It shows the nobility in a less than favorable light and the servants are the smart ones, the ones who run circles around the nobility. So it had a lot of trouble with the censors.”

While working from the same source material, each composer heard different voices for the major roles.

Figaro, the barber and match-maker in “Barber” was a baritone to Rossini. To Mozart, he’s a bass-baritone.

Figaro’s friend Count Almaviva, who pined for Rosina in “Barber” sang in high tenor. Now married to Rosina, but after Figaro’s fiancée, Susanna, the Count is a baritone.

Perhaps weary of her husband’s philandering, Rosina rises from a mezzo-soprano in “Barber” to a soprano in “Marriage.”

Hamilton says the composers’ reason for the different voices was simply a matter of personal preferences, adding that Rossini preferred mezzo-sopranos for his leading ladies.

As such, all three roles turned over between the fall production and this weekend’s run. Christopher Job steps in as Figaro, Jesse Blumberg stars as his lecherous acquaintance, Count Almaviva, and Manuela Kriscak steps in as Rosina, now a countess.

Anne Jennifer Nash steps into the spotlight as Susanna, the longest role in opera.

It is Nash’s debut with the FM Symphony, an assistant professor of voice at Concordia College.

“It’s a role I’m always extremely excited to play,” she says.

Two days after accepting the job at Concordia, Hamilton asked her if she’d want to play Susanna.

Turning down an invitation to perform in “Marriage” isn’t much of an option to singers.

“I didn’t have to think twice. I immediately said yes,” Nash says.

Peter Halverson is the only major performer returning from last fall’s “Barber,” though his role, Dr. Bartolo, is smaller this time around.

The baritone, also a Concordia vocal teacher, has done more than 10 performances of “Marriage” and likes Dr. Bartolo, even if it is smaller now.

“For me it’s a foray into a different kind of character,” Halverson says. “He’s more of a comic character, even buffoonish. And that’s a lot of fun.”

Having played in both “Barber” and “Marriage,” Halverson says both are “wonderful.”

“I loved both operas over my career. It’s hard to beat ‘Marriage of Figaro.’ It’s such a great opera with some of the most sublime music,” he says. “Rossini is always a little crazier, probably a little sillier in terms of plots.”

“This would be my favorite opera. Even though Mr. Mozart neglected to write a role in it for me,” Hamilton says with a laugh, noting a lack of a tenor part. “I thought editing Mozart wouldn’t be a good idea.”

If you go

What: “The Marriage of Figaro”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Reineke Festival Concert Hall, NDSU, 1301 12th Ave. N., Fargo

Info: Tickets range from $5 to $75. (701) 239-4558


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533