It was a wedding unlike any other at the
University of Maine, melding the inspiration of a class book with the
institution's operatic roots. The School of Performing Arts production
of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, sung in English, mobilized upward
of 100 students in theater, music and dance in the six-month run-up to
the two weekends of performances this past February. And as a "class
opera," it served as a springboard for cross-discipline academic
dialogue campuswide about history, culture, philosophy and the French
The last major operatic production at UMaine was
Die Fledermaus, staged in 1996 for the opening of the Class of '44
Hall, home of the School of Performing Arts. Since then, UMaine
theater professor Tom Mikotowicz says he has been waiting for the
right time to produce another opera.
An annual, full-scale operatic production was once
a mainstay of UMaine's academic performing arts season. Longtime
theater professor Al Cyrus and music professor Lud Hallman directed
many of them. Among their last collaborations in the late 1980s was
The Merry Widow.
The Marriage of Figaro was the first UMaine opera
Hallman coproduced in the early '70s, shortly after the baritone
joined the UMaine community to teach voice and be a choral director.
In February, Hallman conducted a 35-piece
orchestra and Mikotowicz directed a cast of 28. Some roles were double
and split cast to allow as many students as possible to perform.
Student crews and four theater classes were involved in the many
behind-the-scenes activities, such as costuming, stage set craft and
Professional scene and lighting guest artists led
the design team, including New York-based lighting designer Burke
Brown and scenic designer Laura McPherson from Providence, R.I.
Early on, it was a challenge to sell an opera to
students, who perceive the genre as staid and static, admits
Mikotowicz. But by opening night, music students were asking "why we
don't do opera more often," he says. Theater students said they never
thought they'd have so much fun in an operatic production.
What they discovered, Mikotowicz says, was
18th-century musical comedy.
by Margaret Nagle
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