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NIU Opera Theater presents Mozart masterpiece

Published: Thursday, March 18, 2010 9:56 a.m. CST

As the finale to its current season, Northern Illinois University Opera Workshop, in collaboration with the NIU Philharmonic and NIU Concert Choir, will present a semi-staged concert version of Mozart’s popular comic masterpiece “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Performances, which will be sung in English, are at 8 p.m. March 26 and 3 p.m. March 28 in Boutell Memorial Concert Hall in the Music Building, 550 Lucinda Ave. on the NIU campus.

The opera is based on the second in a trilogy of plays about Figaro and his ongoing relationship with the Count Almaviva. In the first installment, “The Barber of Seville,” Figaro helps the Count woo and win Rosina, the young ward of Dr. Bartolo.

In Mozart’s opera, Figaro is the Count’s valet and is to be married to Rosina’s chambermaid, Susanna. The Count, however, has grown bored with his wife and would like to gain Susanna’s affections for himself. Matters in the Almaviva household are further complicated by the mischievous adventures of the young page, Cherubino, and Figaro’s previous contract of obligation to Marcellina, Bartolo’s housekeeper.

Figaro’s wedding finally takes place, thanks to the combined ingenuity of Susanna and the Countess Rosina, assisted by Figaro. The fact that an aristocrat is outsmarted by his servants and his wife was a bold statement about the inequities of class and gender when the opera was first produced in 1786, on the eve of the French Revolution.

NIU Opera’s cast is headed by Drayton Eggleson (Sycamore) as Figaro and Victoria Watts (Terre Haute, Ind.) as Susanna, with Johnny Boehlefeld (Durand) and Joni Marie Crotty (Monticello) as the Count and Countess, and Marybeth Kurnat (DeKalb) at Cherubino. Jennifer Griffin (Schaumburg) and Aaron Bolden (Rockford) sing the roles of Marcellina and Bartolo. Sean DelGrosso (Gurnee), Liz Camerano (Brookfield), Michael Dhesse (Peru) and Catherine Taylor (West Chicago) are featured in supporting roles.

James Tucker is the stage director of the NIU Opera Theater program. He has written the text (libretto) for four operas, most recently a children’s opera that premiered in Glen Ellyn, Portland and Washington, D.C., in 2005. He also has worked with regional operas, including the Chicago Opera Theater and the Madison (Wis.) Opera.

Lucia Matos is music director and conductor of this production. She also is the director of the NIU Philharmonic. Matos conducted professionally in her homeland, Brazil, before coming to the United States for graduate studies. She also conducted the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra for a CD that was released by Cala Records in 2007.

Eric Johnson is the director of choral activities at NIU and of the NIU Concert and Chamber choirs. He also is music director of the Bach Chamber Choir in Rockford as well as Cor Cantiamo, an ensemble comprised mainly of NIU School of Music alumni.

The harpsichord continuo is provided by NIU School of Music piano professor William Koehler.

Tickets can be purchased at the door on the nights of performance. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $7 for non-NIU students. NIU students are admitted free with valid student ID. For more information, contact Lynn Slater at 815-753-1546 or lslater@niu.edu.

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