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Utah Opera to explore love in Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’

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SALT LAKE CITY — Wedding season is fast approaching, and Utah Opera is on board with the final offering of its 2015-16 season: Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” which will run May 7-15 at the Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre.

“The Marriage of Figaro,” which will be performed in Italian with English supertitles, picks up several years after the events of “The Barber of Seville.” Servants Susanna and Figaro are about to be wed, but their employer, Count Almaviva, has taken a special interest in Susanna, much to the dismay of both the lovers and the count’s wife, Rosina, whom he so faithfully wooed in “The Barber of Seville.”

“It’s funny: It’s called ‘The Marriage of Figaro,’ but it’s actually about the wedding of Figaro,” said director Tara Faircloth, who also helmed Utah Opera’s production of “The Barber of Seville” in 2013. “The play is very much about the marriage of the count and the countess.”

Making her Utah Opera debut as Countess Rosina Almaviva is soprano Nicole Heaston.

“The countess … used to be what Susanna is,” Heaston said. “She was young, she was spry, she was smart, and she was game for anything, and she fell in love with the count and the count fell in love with her. But then years have passed by, and now she is slightly older. … She sees her friend and confidante Susanna being approached by her husband, and Susanna is marrying her former friend Figaro.

“… She really, truly still loves her husband, and so the whole opera is really about her trying to get him back,” she continued. “Susanna and Figaro, they all come up with this lovely scheme to try and trick him to make sure that he doesn’t get Susanna. (The countess is) more so trying to make sure that he doesn’t get Susanna, but also that he’ll realize that he needs to be with her. So it’s really about her quest for getting her love back.”

Performing as Figaro and also making his Utah Opera debut is bass-baritone Seth Carico.

“(Figaro) always thinks he’s the most clever person in the room,” Carico said. “Frequently, he’s correct about that, unless Susanna is in the room, and then he’s very much incorrect about that because she’s without a doubt the most clever person in any room.”

Figaro believes the count has done a generous thing for him by giving him a room, Carico said, until Susanna tells him the count’s true intentions are to use the room to get to her.

“That starts the whole process for him where now he realizes that this man that he thought he had a friendship with is actually trying to cheat him, in a way,” Carico said. “So like most men, he’s a hothead as well, and lets his pride get in the way of his cleverness, and so he goes on this rampage of idiocy for the rest of the opera, trying to be clever and failing at every step.”

Soprano Zulimar Lopez-Hernandez, who plays Susanna, is also performing with Utah Opera for the first time.

“I think it’s my favorite role in the entire literature,” she said. “She is like Figaro. … She’s pure, she’s good, she’s very smart, she’s resourceful.”

Susanna finds herself in a difficult situation because of her “very, very special relationship” with the countess, Lopez-Hernandez said.

“Even though I am lower class and I serve her, she’s always been so good to me,” she said. “… I don’t want her to think that (I) would do anything to hurt her, because this is totally out of (my) control.”

Faircloth said that though “The Marriage of Figaro” continues the story of “The Barber of Seville,” this staging won’t look much like its predecessor.

“‘The Barber of Seville’ was a very traditional-looking set and costumes, and ours is … set in 1912-ish, ‘Downton Abbey’-style,” she said. The costume design is by Susan Memmott-Allred, who was Utah Opera’s resident costume designer for more than 30 years, according to a news release.

Conductor Gary Thor Wedow will lead musicians of the Utah Symphony in his first Utah Opera appearance since he served as conductor for “The Abduction from the Seraglio” in 2014.

“Every piece and every individual number in ‘Figaro’ is based on a dance,” Wedow said. “The dances are often iconic, meaning that Mozart chooses the type of dance to fit the emotional situation, so you always have Mozart kind of commenting with his choice of music, even with his choice of key. …

“The music is infectious,” he continued. “My goal is to make sure the audience can feel that infectious rhythm and we can all start dancing together.”

Faircloth said “The Marriage of Figaro” is “full of all stripes of humanity.”

“The music is ridiculously joyful, and it is, so it’s full of comic moments,” she said. “And then, in Mozart fashion, you’ll be laughing, laughing, laughing, and then suddenly the floor drops out from under you and you’re taken away by the beauty and the pain of being human. … (Audiences) are going to see life reflected and hopefully be reminded of what’s important about love.”

If you go ...

What: Utah Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro”

When: May 7, 9, 11 and 13, 7:30 p.m.; and May 15, 2 p.m.

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

How much: $18-$107

Phone: 801-355-2787

Web: utahopera.org

Email: rbrutsch@deseretnews.com