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OWR tackles ambitious production



Published: Sat, October 28, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The opera features music that will be familiar to many people.

By GUY D'ASTOLFO

VINDICATOR ENTERTAINMENT WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Opera Western Reserve will mount its most ambitious production to date when it stages "Le Nozze di Figaro" on Nov. 10

The third opera in as many years by the company, it will be performed one time at Stambaugh Auditorium. "La Boheme" was last year's production; "I Pagliacci" was the inaugural work in 2004.

Susan Davenny Wyner, music director of the Warren Philharmonic, is the director of "Figaro."

She could hardly contain her enthusiasm for the production.

"'Figaro' is funny and fun," she said at a recent press conference announcing the opera, "and it features music that you know. When you hear it, you'll know you've heard it before, even if you didn't know where it was from."

"Figaro," written in 1778 by Pierre Beaumarchais and composed as an opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was first performed in 1784.

OWR's production will be sung in Italian, with English subtitles projected above the stage.

Davenny Wyner, who also directed OWR's two other productions, said many will enjoy the lively "Figaro."

"It has quick action, and complete character development, so you care about them," she said.

The plot

The title character in "Figaro" is a servant of Count Almaviva's, and is engaged to Susanna, who is the Countess's head chambermaid. The Count, who is bored with his wife, searches out amorous adventures.

Attracted by Susanna's charms, he wishes to revive the right of a nobleman to take advantage of a servant's bride before her marriage. Susanna and the Countess devise a plot to trick the count, but Figaro is mislead in the process.

In the end, the Count is made to look the fool. With renewed appreciation for his wife, he recommits himself to her.

"['Figaro'] was daring at the time it was written," said Davenny Wyner, "because it presented the Count and Countess as being on equal footing with the servants. The common people teach the Count something about life."

This is a good year to present "Figaro," she pointed out, because it is the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.

A major effort

David Vosburgh is the stage director and scenic designer. According to the former artistic director of The Youngstown Playhouse, the grandiosity of "Figaro" represents a leap for OWR.

"It has five acts and four sets, which is more than our previous productions," he said.

Staging an opera is an expensive proposition, but OWR is working toward a goal of eventually staging multiple performances each year, Vosburgh said.

The company's productions have been well-received by audiences, he said, and have attracted funding from major contributors. The OWR recently received four major gifts: 10,000 from Anthony Lariccia, 10,000 from Frank and Pearl Gelbman, 5,000 from the Italian Education Foundation; and 5,000 from the Youngstown Opera Guild.

Set in the 1700s, the opera features beautiful costumes that define the noble class. The costumes were designed by Barbara Luce of The Costume Kingdom, Poland.

An orchestra has been assembled from members of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra and the Warren Philharmonic.

A strong group of experienced operatic actors, hailing from the Ohio-Pennsylvania region, make up the cast, which includes Brian Keith Johnson as the Count; Charlene Canty, the Countess; Scott Skiba, Figaro; Marian Vogel, Susanna; Mary Alice Bright, Marcellina; Emily Landa, Cherubino; and Amanda Beagle, Barbarina.




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