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Utah Opera’s Colorful “The Barber of Seville” Production Brings 1980s Spanish Flair to Spice Up Rossini’s Classic Comedic Opera

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (March 3, 2020) – Utah Opera puts a 1980s spin on Rossini’s classic opera buffa tale of love, pranks and disguises, “The Barber of Seville.” Charming and clever Rosina has captured the attention of two men: the older Dr. Bartolo and the wealthy Count Almaviva. Enter Seville’s barber, Figaro, who is enlisted by the Count to assist him in winning Rosina’s heart, and does so with classic comedic flair. Utah Opera’s five performances of “The Barber of Seville” will take place in the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre (50 West 200 South) on March 14 and 20 at 7:30 PM, March 16 and 18 at 7 PM, and March 22 at 2 PM. Tickets, priced from $29 to $111 (50 percent off for students), are available here or by calling 801-533-NOTE (6683).

Gioachino Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville” recounts the events of the first of the three plays by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais that revolve around the clever and enterprising character named Figaro, the barber of the title. Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro,” composed 30 years earlier in 1786, is based on the second part of the Beaumarchais trilogy. Even two hundred years after its initial premiere, “The Barber of Seville” remains a staple and a standard of comedic operas around the world.

“The opera’s bubbly music and frothy comic story lines are a romp from the first note of the overture to the rousing finale. The music is ubiquitous, being played in concert halls, movie scores, and, yes, even in Bugs Bunny cartoons,” said Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth. “If you’ve seen ‘The Barber of Seville’ previously, I assure you that you are about to see it as never before. Michael Shell’s colorful 20th century setting of this classic opera opens our eyes to see it in a wonderfully new way and makes the story even more vibrant.”

Utah Opera uses the set and costumes from a 2014 co-production for Opera Philadelphia, Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Opera Omaha. Said the original production’s stage director, Michael Shell: “In an effort to design a world that would suit this endeavor, all the while grounding us in Spain, I turned to the films of Pedro Almodóvar which have all of the elements of a Rossini opera. Almodóvar is brilliant at walking the line between dramatic comedy and melodramatic absurdity. His films are also deeply embedded in Spain and Spanish culture. By using his films as inspiration, we are rooting ourselves in Spain and hopefully giving these characters a new depth, which ultimately reveals much more heart and humor.”

Gary Thor Wedow returns to Utah Opera to conduct this production of “The Barber of Seville.” He conducted at Utah Opera in May of 2014 for our production of “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” “Lucia di Lammermoor” in March of 2017, and “Die Fledermaus” in May 2018. A Julliard School faculty member since 1994, “Opera News” has hailed him for his “hot music making” and “convincingly elegant period style.” His debut with the New York Philharmonic conducting Messiah was noted in “The New York Times” for “a fleet, lithe orchestral performance, aptly complemented by the buoyant singing of the chorus.”

Making his Utah Opera debut is stage director Jimmy Marcheso, who has directed productions at San Francisco Opera and The Santa Fe Opera. “It’s Rossini as if it were an Almodóvar movie. It’s a great jumping off point for the irreverence of the piece,” said Mr. Marcheso. “We play the music of Rossini the way Almodóvar is able to play with tine, melodrama, romance, camp and surrealism.”

Performing the role of Figaro is Baritone Michael Adams, who was featured among ‘25 Rising Stars’ by “Opera News” and made his debut with Utah Opera as Marcello in the company’s September 2017 production of “La bohème.” Former Utah Opera Resident Artist mezzo-soprano Sarah Coit returns to the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre stage to perform the role of Rosina, after her most recent Utah Opera appearance as Zerlina in the 2017 production of “Don Giovanni.” Joining the Utah Opera cast are Matthew Grills as Count Almaviva, Kevin Burdette as Don Bartolo, and Brian Banion as Basilio, all of whom are making their Utah Opera debuts.

Experience this hilariously beautiful and colorful opera through a production set in the 1980s with scenery by Shoko Kambara and costumes by Amanda Seymour. Shoko Kambara has an MFA in Scenic Design from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and is an adjunct faculty member at her alma mater and at Montclair State University. Ms. Kambara’s 2014 set design, a co-commission for Opera Philadelphia, Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Opera Omaha, was inspired by a layover she took in Seville, Spain, where the ever-present orange trees were inspiration for much of the orange-hued set. “The Philadelphia Inquirer” noted: “Scenery arrives decorated with eye-crossing patterns. The cotton candy is as bright as Christmas lights.”

Costume Designer Amanda Seymour is a New York based costume designer for theatre, opera, television, film and dance. Past credits include “Candide” at Tanglewood Music Festival, “Roméo et Juliette” at Wolf Trap Opera, “La finta giardiniera” at the Juilliard School, “Diner the Musical” at Delaware Theater Company, “Macbeth” at The Public Theater, “The Ragged Claws” at Cherry Lane Theater, and “Oliver!” at the Paper Mill Playhouse.

Utah Opera’s performances of “The Barber of Seville” will run two hours and 40 minutes with one 20 minute intermission.

RELATED EVENTS

Learn Before You Go
Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s education and community outreach department facilitates an online “Learn Before You Go” series prior to each opera. Online learning materials are prepared by music professors at local universities including Utah Valley University, University of Utah, and Brigham Young University. They are available online at utahopera.org/onlinelearning.

Blind and Visually Impaired Night
On March 11, visually-impaired guests are invited along with a driver/seeing companion to attend the Wednesday night dress rehearsal of Utah Opera’s production of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.” The event is free of charge. At 6:00 PM, Artistic Director Christopher McBeth and Director of Education & Outreach Paula Fowler will talk about the opera, pass around prepared fabric samples of costumes, and share information about the set. Braille translations of the supertitles and large print copies of the synopsis are available, as well as headsets through which a play-by-play description of stage action is broadcast from our translator’s booth. This event is an annual collaboration between Utah Opera, the Moran Eye Center, and the Utah Council for the Blind. The Library for the Blind will have brailed supertitle scripts/libretti that can be picked up from the library. For this service, call 801-715-6789. Register here.

Opera-tunities Night
Students in grades 7 through 12 can attend Utah Opera’s final dress rehearsal on Thursday, March 12 at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre through “Opera-tunities Night”. This program is free for public/charter school students and their accompanying teachers and is $5 for private/home school students and their accompanying teachers. Visit here for more information.

Red Carpet Event
Opening night of each opera will feature a red carpet event where patrons can pose for a free photo. Photos will be posted on the Utah Opera Facebook page, allowing participants to tag themselves during their night out on the town. Visit facebook.com/utahopera for more information. The starting time of the red carpet event is 6:30 PM.

Opera Prelude Lecture
Utah Opera Principal Coach Carol Anderson will offer an Opera Prelude Lecture, free of charge for ticket holders, in the Capitol Room of the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre (50 West 200 South) one hour before curtain for each performance.

Q&A Session
Utah Opera Artistic Director Christopher McBeth and special guests from the cast will host a Q&A session, free of charge for ticket holders, immediately following each performance in the Capitol Room of the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre (50 West 200 South).

SYNOPSIS

Act 1
Seville
Count Almaviva comes in disguise to the house of Doctor Bartolo and serenades Rosina, whom Bartolo keeps confined to the house, beneath her balcony window. Figaro the barber, who knows all the town’s secrets and scandals, arrives. He explains to Almaviva that Rosina is Bartolo’s ward, not his daughter, and that the doctor intends to marry her. Figaro devises a plan: the count will disguise himself as a drunken soldier with orders to be quartered at Bartolo’s house so that he may gain access to the girl. Almaviva is excited and Figaro looks forward to a nice cash pay-off.

Rosina reflects on the voice that has enchanted her and resolves to use her considerable wiles to meet its owner, whom the count leads her to believe is a poor student named Lindoro. Bartolo appears with Rosina’s music master, Don Basilio. Basilio warns Bartolo that Count Almaviva, who has made known his admiration for Rosina, has been seen in Seville. Bartolo decides to marry Rosina immediately. Figaro, who has overheard the plot, warns Rosina and promises to deliver a note from her to
Lindoro. Bartolo suspects that Rosina has indeed written a letter, but she outwits him at every turn. Angry at her defiance, Bartolo warns her not to trifle with him.

Almaviva arrives, creating a ruckus in his disguise as a drunken soldier, and secretly passes Rosina his own note. Bartolo is infuriated by the stranger’s behavior and noisily claims that he has an official exemption from billeting soldiers. Figaro announces that a crowd has gathered in the street, curious about the argument they hear coming from inside the house. The civil guard bursts in to arrest Almaviva but when he secretly reveals his true identity to the captain he is instantly released. Everyone except Figaro is amazed by this turn of events.

Act 2
Bartolo suspects that the “soldier” was a spy planted by Almaviva. The count returns, this time disguised as Don Alonso, a music teacher and student of Don Basilio. He announces he will give Rosina her music lesson in place of Basilio, who, he says, is ill at home. “Don Alonso” tells Bartolo that he is staying at the same inn as Almaviva and has found a letter from Rosina. He offers to tell her that it was given to him by another woman, seemingly to prove that Lindoro is toying with Rosina on Almaviva’s behalf. This convinces Bartolo that “Don Alonso” is indeed a student of the scheming Basilio, and he allows him to give Rosina her music lesson. She sings an aria, and, with Bartolo dozing off, Almaviva and Rosina express their love.

Figaro arrives to give Bartolo his shave and manages to snatch the key that opens the doors to Rosina’s balcony. Suddenly Basilio shows up looking perfectly healthy. Almaviva, Rosina, and Figaro convince him with a quick bribe that he is sick with scarlet fever and must go home at once. While Bartolo gets his shave, Almaviva plots with Rosina to elope that night. But the doctor overhears them and furiously realizes he has been tricked again. Everyone disperses.

Bartolo summons Basilio, telling him to bring a notary so Bartolo can marry Rosina that very night. Bartolo then shows Rosina her letter to Lindoro, as proof that he is in league with Almaviva. Heartbroken and convinced that she has been deceived, she agrees to marry Bartolo. A thunderstorm rages. Figaro and the count climb a ladder to Rosina’s balcony and let themselves in with the key. Rosina appears and confronts Lindoro, who finally reveals his true identity as Almaviva. Basilio shows up with the notary. Bribed and threatened, he agrees to be a witness to the marriage of Rosina and Almaviva. Bartolo arrives with soldiers, but it is too late. Almaviva explains to Bartolo that it is useless to protest and Bartolo accepts that he has been beaten. Figaro, Rosina, and the count celebrate their good fortune.

CAST BIOS

Sarah Coit (Florida)
Rosina
Most Recently at Utah Opera, Don Giovanni
Former Utah Opera Resident Artist
Recently:
“Carmen,” Seattle Opera, Opera Tampa; “The Threepenny Opera,” West Edge Opera; “Le nozze di Figaro,” Michigan Opera Theatre
Upcoming:
“Káťa Kabanová,” West Edge Opera; “The Copper Queen,” Arizona Opera

Matthew Grills (Connecticut)
Count Almaviva
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“Il barbiere di Siviglia,” “La cenerentola,” Seattle Opera; “Der Rosenkavalier,” Metropolitan Opera; “Don Pasquale,” Berkshire Opera Festival
Upcoming:
“L’elisir d’amore,” Seattle Opera; “La cenerentola,” Nashville Opera

Michael Adams (Texas)
Figaro
Most recently at Utah Opera, “Pagliacci”/”Gianni Schicchi”
Recently:
“Eugene Onegin,” “Così fan tutte,” “La cenerentola,” Seattle Opera; “Die Zauberflöte,” “Silent Night,” Washington National Opera; “Les pêcheurs de perles,” Gran Teatre del Liceu
Upcoming:
“L’elisir d’amore,” Seattle Opera; “Candide,” Grand Théâtre de Genève

Brian Banion (Ohio)
Don Basilio
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“Gianni Schicchi,” Opera Columbus; “L’elisir d’amore,” Piedmont Opera; “Il barbiere di Siviglia,” Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Upcoming:
Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra; Resident Artist, Bay View Music Festival

Kevin Burdette (Tennessee)
Doctor Bartolo
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“Candide,” Gran Teatre del Liceu; “Billy Budd,” Central City Opera; “The Exterminating Angel,” Metropolitan Opera
Upcoming:
“M. Butterfly” (World Premiere), “Il barbiere di Siviglia,” The Santa Fe Opera; “The Marriage of Figaro,” Dallas Opera

Brandon Bell (Virginia)
Fiorello/Officer
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “Silent Night”
Current Utah Opera Resident Artist
Recently:
“La traviata,” Utah Opera; “Messiah,” Utah Symphony; “La bohème,” West Bay Opera; “Breaking the Waves,” West Edge Opera; “La fille du régiment,” Opera Saratoga
Upcoming:
“Thaïs,” Utah Opera

Grace Kahl (New York)
Berta
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “La traviata”
Current Utah Opera Resident Artist
Recently:
Apprentice Program, The Santa Fe Opera; “The Little Prince,” Utah Opera; “Candide,” “Messiah,” Utah Symphony; “The Tender Land,” “Rusalka,” Des Moines Metro Opera; “Falstaff,” Intermountain Opera Bozeman
Upcoming:
“Thaïs,” Utah Opera; “Sweeney Todd,” “Fellow Travelers,” Des Moines Metro Opera

ARTISTIC STAFF BIOS

Jimmy Featherstone Marcheso (California)
Stage Director
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“Mary Pleasant at Land’s End” (World Premiere Workshop), San Francisco Conservatory of Music; “Hansel and Gretel,” San Francisco Opera; “Italian Girl in Algiers,” The Santa Fe Opera
Upcoming:
“The Barber of Seville,” San Diego Opera; “Partenope,” San Francisco Opera

Gary Thor Wedow (Indiana)
Conductor
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “Die Fledermaus”
Recently:
“Semele,” Opera Philadelphia; “La cenerentola,” Seattle Opera; “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” Opera
Omaha
Upcoming:
“Giulio Cesare,” Boston Lyric Opera; “Platée,” Des Moines Metro Opera

Michaella Calzaretta (Iowa)
Chorus Master
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “Silent Night”
Recently:
2018–19 season, Utah Opera; “We are Women,” Utah Opera Chorus
Upcoming:
2019–20 season, Utah Opera; “Locust,” Natural History Museum of Utah in collaboration with Utah Opera

Shoko Kambara (New York)
Set Design
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
“The Prince of Players,” Houston Grand Opera; “The Little Mermaid,” Arkansas Repertory Theatre; “The Barber of Seville,” Opera Philadelphia, Opera Theatre of St. Louis Don Pasquale, Julliard School

Driscoll Otto (Texas)
Lighting Designer
Most Recently at Utah Opera, “Die Fledermaus”
Recently:
“The Golden Cockerel,” The Santa Fe Opera; “Lucia di Lammermoor,” Virginia Opera; “La donna del lago,” Metropolitan Opera

Amanda Mitchell (Texas)
Wig & Make-up Design
Utah Opera Debut
Recently:
Wig & Makeup assistant, Houston Grand Opera; Wig Master, Houston Ballet; Stages Theatre; Alley Theatre

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