Note: Utah Opera’s “The Barber of Seville” was scheduled to run March 14-22 at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City. Following Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s announcement on March 12 that mass gatherings be limited to groups of 100 people or less to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Utah Symphony and Utah Opera announced it is canceling all performance dates scheduled in March. The organization is currently evaluating whether these performances can be rescheduled for another date.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sydney Frodsham is no stranger to the stage, but her current role with Utah Opera has her on the sidelines.

For the last two weeks, the BYU student has attended Utah Opera rehearsals for “The Barber of Seville,” which was previously scheduled to run at Salt Lake City’s Capitol Theatre March 14-22. She’s there as part of the company’s role study program — just one of Utah Opera’s many educational outreach initiatives.

Watching and paying close attention to the professional musicians as they practice has been an important experience for Frodsham, a graduate student who is preparing to be a resident artist with Santa Fe Opera after her graduation in April.

Sydney Frodsham is a graduate student at Brigham Young University who is preparing to be a resident artist with Santa Fe Opera this summer. | Shawn Flint Blair

“It’s like being able to experience actual life outside of graduate school,” Frodsham told the Deseret News. “And the career that I want, which is really valuable because it makes me realize how much I love it.” 

A backstage pass

Originally from McKinney, Texas, Frodsham came to BYU after graduating from Southern Methodist University in 2018.

At Brigham Young University, one of her professors told her about Utah Opera’s role study program — a program that illustrates the company’s desire to be a “community resource,” according to Carol Anderson, Utah Opera’s principal vocal coach.

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But Utah Opera doesn’t just reach out at the university level. The company — which spends $4 million on education outreach each year — also works to inspire high school and even elementary school students.

To reach out to university students, Utah Opera performs one show each year that is more “accessible” to young singers, Anderson said, adding that the production is typically one students are likely to have already studied or at least features familiar arias.

Last year, that show was Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” — “Queen of the Night” aria, anyone? This year, it’s Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”

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And Frodsham has been immersed in Utah Opera’s production, studying the role of Rosina that will be performed by Sarah Coit.

“She doesn’t just watch (Coit) on stage or listen to her sing, but she also is able to talk to Sarah and to me and to just get more insight into what the job is going to be,” Anderson said. “And what the job may be down the road.”

By sitting in on rehearsals, students like Frodsham are able to get a firsthand look at how a professional production is run. And there’s a number of things to watch out for.

Utah Opera’s production of “The Barber of Seville” runs March 14-22 at the Capitol Theatre. | Provided by Utah Opera

“I pay attention to what’s happening on stage, but I’m also paying attention to what the directors are saying, when they stop, what they’re talking about,” Frodsham said. “How does (the show) run? How is it different from what I’m used to?”

“It’s also really fun,” the mezzo-soprano continued. “It really is just me sitting there absorbing the music, analyzing it, listening.”

A ‘funky and fun’ ‘Barber of Seville’

“The Barber of Seville” is one of the most popular operas in the world.

“Everyone knows that part where the baritone sings, ‘Figaro, Figaro, Figaro,’” Anderson said with a laugh.

Utah Opera’s production of “The Barber of Seville” runs March 14-22 at the Capitol Theatre. | Provided by Utah Opera

It’s a classic story, but Anderson said Utah Opera’s take is “funky and fun.”

“The thing that I saw — especially when I walked into the theater and saw the set for the first time — is it’s just so much color onstage,” she said. “It’s just really vibrant and exciting, and that translates into the action in the scenes as well. It’s a standard piece that’s going to be seen through a new lens.”

Anderson hopes this new take — and Utah Opera’s outreach efforts — will help to demystify opera and draw in more audiences.

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“We don’t want to be just in our little ivory tower,” she said. “We want to be reaching out to everybody.”

In adapting and reaching out to students like Frodsham, Utah Opera helps ensure that opera will continue to remain popular and relevant for a long, long time.

Down the road

When Frodsham graduates from BYU next month, she’ll head to Santa Fe. She’ll have at least one familiar face there: Anderson has been on the staff of Santa Fe Opera’s summer program for the last 19 years.

After the summer, Frodsham will then go to Montreal, where she’ll be a resident artist for two years. She said her experience with Utah Opera has given her a glimpse of the professional life that awaits her.

Utah Opera’s production of “The Barber of Seville” runs March 14-22 at the Capitol Theatre. | Provided by Utah Opera

“I get to see what my life is going to be like in a few months after I graduate, which is really valuable because you don’t always get to see what your job is going to be,” the singer said.

Getting hands-on experience in a professional production is a major steppingstone for aspiring young performers like Frodsham, according to Anderson.

“She’s a really hard worker and an extraordinary talent that I think could go a long way,” Anderson said. “And I hope this can be a part of it.”

Note: If you purchased tickets to “The Barber of Seville,” USUO is waiving all exchange fees to exchange tickets for a performance on another date, including Deer Valley Music Festival performances, according to a news release. Ticket holders can also exchange their tickets for gift certificates that will be valid for the next 18 months or donate the ticket value for a tax-deductible donation. For more information, visit usuo.org.