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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: July 18, 2018

Written more than 200 years ago, ‘Marriage of Figaro’ just as relevant amid #MeToo

Written by: Bob Keyes

Maeve Hoglund and Keith Phares.
Photo by Martha Mickles

Mozart wrote his masterpiece “The Marriage of Figaro” in 1786, and the libretto was based on a stage comedy by the Frenchman Pierre Beaumarchais, which debuted two years before that.

Apparently, men haven’t evolved much since then.

“The Marriage of Figaro” tells the story of the skirt-chasing Count Almaviva, who believes it’s his right as a man of standing to have sex with a female servant on the night of her marriage. It’s a comic opera, centering on the servants Figaro and Susanna, who succeed in their efforts to fend off the philandering count while also teaching him it’s not cool to sleep around.

“Figaro” has been around more than 230 years, and, sadly, seems as timely in the #MeToo era as when it was written.

Oh, men.

Opera Maine stages “The Marriage of Figaro” for two nights at Merrill Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. July 25 and 27.

The creative team is led by Stephen Lord, who conducts the orchestra, and Dona D. Vaughn, who serves as artistic director. Christopher Akerlind, a Tony Award-winning designer from Portland, designed the set and lighting. The cast includes five principals who have recently sung at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Maeve Hoglund, Hongni Wu and Danielle Pastin.
Photo by Martha Mickles

New this year, Opera Maine secured a $2,500 grant from the retailer Macy’s to underwrite 100 tickets for distribution to young Mainers, veterans and members of immigrant communities. The “Opera for All!” initiative is designed to introduce new audiences to opera while championing equity, diversity and inclusion, said Caroline Koelker, Opera Maine’s executive director.

“We are always trying to find ways to bring people who otherwise would be unable to attend the opera, for many different reasons,” she said. “We want to make the opera easy for them to attend, and we want to engage with them and say, ‘Please come, please try it.’ ”

The mainstage production at Merrill caps what has been an active month for Opera Maine. It presented the 90-minute opera “Three Decembers” in several communities across the state in early July, performed at the First Friday Art Walk and sent its stars out into the community for outreach and fundraising.

“The Marriage of Figaro” is among the most popular and most-produced operas. At its core, it’s a comedy about one crazy day of love – shared loved, wandering love and perhaps even true love. It’s a story about intermingled relationships that need to be sorted out and set straight.

A lot of people attend theater to escape, but opera pulls people together, Koelker said. “When people attend the opera, what they find is a connection – a connection to the music, a connection to the story. With ‘The Marriage of Figaro,’ even if you don’t look at the supertitles, just by Mozart’s brilliant music you know what’s going on,” she said.

“The Marriage of Figaro” will be sung in Italian with English supertitles. Keith Phares will perform the role of Count Almaviva and soprano Danielle Pastin is the Countess. Returning to perform with Opera Maine are tenor Robert Brubaker as Basilio, baritone Robert Mellon as Figaro and soprano Maeve Höglund as Susanna. Mezzo-soprano Hongni Wu (as Cherubino) just won the Metropolitan Council Auditions. Also featured are mezzo-soprano MaryAnn McCormick as Marcellina and bass Kevin Glavin as Bartolo.

Several singers are back with Opera Maine for return performances. Brubaker has sung here five times. Höglund sang in “Carmen” in 2016, and Mellon began with the company as a studio artist.

“The Marriage of Figaro”

WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, and Friday, July 27
HOW MUCH: $31 to $131
INFO: (207) 842-0800 or porttix.com or operamaine.com

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