Opera Theater to Present ‘Marriage of Figaro’

OBU's Opera Theater will present Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s timeless opera, “The Marriage of Figaro” for five nights only: Feb. 25-26 and March 3, 4 and 5, 2011. All performances will be sung in English. The opera will begin at 7 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Yarborough Auditorium.

“The Marriage of Figaro” was the first of Mozart’s three collaborations with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte which resulted in three masterpieces of the standard operatic repertoire –- “The Marriage of Figaro" ("Le nozze di Figaro"), “Don Giovanni” and “Cosi fan tutte.”

“To many, ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ is arguably the greatest opera ever written because of its incredible depth and unity of music and drama,” said Dr. Mark McQuade, OBU assistant professor of music and coordinator of vocal studies. “Mozart’s genius is on full display in this opera.”

When it was premiered, McQuade said the opera was a bit scandalous and received less-than-stellar reviews because many at the time thought it was mocking the aristocracy –- which it was. The humorous plot revolves around the ill-conceived plan of Count Almaviva to reinstate the old feudal right that a lord may take the place of his manservant (Figaro) on the servant’s wedding night, a tradition the Count abolished years ago. Because the Count is infatuated with Susanna, Figaro’s intended bride, he has decided to reinstate the tradition.

“Many twists and turns follow with subplots galore,” McQuade said. “All of the characters are unique and cleverly created, complete with musical motifs and harmonic individuality. Mozart combines beautiful music, a keen whit, social commentary and moving drama in this magnificent work of art.”

Under the direction of McQuade, the goal of the OBU Opera Theater is to get as many OBU students involved in opera as possible. He said he believes “The Marriage of Figaro” fits the bill.

“This opera provides many excellent principle roles for both females and males,” he said. “It also requires an SATB chorus. The music is spirited with many tuneful arias and ensembles, but most importantly for OBU, it is accessible to undergraduate voices. Mozart’s music is ‘vocal friendly’ for younger singers. It is challenging, of course, but it is singable.

McQuade said the challenging thing about singing a Mozart opera for most young singers is learning how to sing “recitative” –- the sung dialogue used by Mozart rather than spoken words between songs. Only through experience and practice do singers acquire the pacing and understanding of Mozart’s harmonic language required to make it sound like speech.

The cast for this production of “The Marriage of Figaro” will feature current OBU students, OBU alumni and a current OBU faculty member. Figaro is played by Griffin Maxwell, a senior instrumental music education major from Enid, Okla.; Susanna is played by Sarah Stephens, a sophomore vocal performance major from Tulsa, Okla.; Count Almaviva is played by Jeff Foresee, a 2005 OBU alum from Shawnee; Countess Almaviva is played by Melissa Argo, a senior vocal music education major from Gallup, N.M.; Marcellina is played by Courtney Bryant, a junior vocal performance major from Moore, Okla.; Don Basilio is played by Peter Purin, OBU assistant professor of music; Cherubino is played by Ashlynn Streck, a sophomore vocal music education from Hennessey, Okla.; Barbarina is played by Breana White, a freshman vocal performance major from Broken Arrow, Okla.; and Antonio is played by Blake Compton, a sophomore religion major from Norman, Okla.

Tickets for the performances will be $10 for adults and $5 for students. They may be purchased through the Fine Arts offices in Raley Chapel; by e-mailing music@okbu.edu; or by calling (405) 878-2305. Tickets also can be purchased at the door.

For more information about the performances, contact the OBU Division of Music at (405) 878-2305.