Marriage of Figaro brings love and laughs to Eau Claire

Department of music and theater arts presents biennial opera “The Marriage of Figaro”


Photo by Brian Sheridan

Seth Hale (middle) as Count Almaviva is trying to seduce Kelly Noltner (left) as Susanna while Jacob Burgess (right) as Figaro watches.

Story by Brian Sheridan, Staff Writer

A wedding day is a day of bliss for husband and wife, except when the wife is seduced, revenge is sought and the husband might have to marry an elderly woman instead.

It’s a hectic day in “The Marriage of Figaro,” a comedic opera opening at UW-Eau Claire Thursday in Gantner Concert Hall.

“The second title of the piece is ‘A Crazy Day,’ and it’s truly a crazy day,” Director Kenneth Pereira said.

“The Marriage of Figaro” is the second part of a trilogy of operas by Beaumarchais, a French playwright. It follows the day of Figaro and Susanna’s wedding, two head servants of the Count and Countess Almaviva.

The Count likes Susanna, so he plots a way to steal her heart. As the Count continues to make advances, Susanna and Figaro look for a way to stop the Count.

Throughout the opera, there are a series of various relationship subplots.

“There’s a lot of these kind of intriguing plots going on, but the main story is like Downton Abbey with a less nice lord and it takes place 200 years earlier,” Periera said.

The music for this opera was composed by Mozart in 1786. Pereira believes it’s very healthy for undergraduate students to learn to sing Mozart, as it develops prominent features in an operatic voice.

“It’s one of the great operas in the repertoire,” Periera said. “There’s a reason it’s been performed regularly since 1786.”

Nearly 50 students came to audition for this famous opera, a number of which  hardly walk into Haas because of their major.

While a majority are music majors, there were major roles given to majors in other departments and a principal role given to a student with a pre-med emphasis.

Theater major Seth Hale enjoys the puzzle of how to find a balance between his acting and singing knowledge for his character, Count Almaviva.

“Everything is so different just because of the way you need to present it,” Hale said. “The voice needs to be heard so you need to face front somehow, but how do you do that and make it look somewhat organic?”

Similarly, vocal performance major Isaac Bont looks for the harmony involved in the “extreme marriage of music and theater.” Luckily, through the diversity an opera provides, every cast member brings their own set of skills other members can benefit from.

“I feel like we really push each other in the ways that we’re strong and we help inform each other on how we can improve,” Bont said.

The opera requires the skills from various sections of Haas. From musicians to singers, to actors and dancers, “The Marriage of Figaro” allows for a rare whole-department collaboration effort.

“The one thing I love about the opera is how it brings everyone together. It’s one department: theater and music arts,” Hale said.

Designers for Figaro, such as costume designer Amanda Profaizer, describe the opera in one word: big.

“It’s big. It’s just a big show,” Profaizer said. “Opera is big. There is no such thing as a small opera.”

Nearly 150 students are involved in the creation and development of this opera, Pereira said. However, even with the amount of people involved, it has been a struggle to finish everything in time.

Set builders and wardrobe crew have been working overtime to get everything done by opening day.  Profaizer said about 70 percent of the costumes were made for the show while the rest were borrowed from around Eau Claire and Utah.

Gantner Concert Hall is also a larger space to perform in, so the set has to be built bigger and thus takes longer to complete.

Technical director James Zwicky faced the additional challenge of completing the stage in a tighter time constraint.

“It occurs very early in the semester,” Zwicky said. “If this was the first show of the fall semester, it would be like two weeks later.”

Senior Aaron Suggs has seen Eau Claire’s operas “The Magic Flute” and “Die Fledermaus” and is hoping to give “The Marriage of Figaro,” “two thumbs up.”

“I’m excited to see the talent (Eau Claire) students can bring to the show and see what kind of technical surprises, like the lighting and the sound, have in store for me,” Suggs said.

While some students may be turned off by the idea of attending an opera, Pereira assures “The Marriage of Figaro” is a very accessible show since it is performed in English and provides super titles overhead during parts that are hard to hear.

“I think one of the great things about being in a university, and especially a liberal arts university, there are many different opportunities to experience things you might not have thought about experiencing before,” Periera said.

Tickets are $9 for students. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26-28, March 5-7 and 1:30 p.m. March 8.