Studio to present ‘Marriage of Figaro’

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Studio to present ‘Marriage of Figaro’Kevin La Brie, Britney Brown and David Hodgson (from left) rehearse a scene from “Marriage of Figaro,” which opens tomorrow — Photo by Laura Austin

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One of Mozart’s most enduring operas will be brought to local audiences this weekend with the Ridgecrest Opera Workshop production of “Marriage of Figaro.”

Performances will be held at the Ridgecrest United Methodist Church — a popular performance venue praised for its exquisite acoustics — on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 2, at 3 p.m.

Director David Hodgson said that the production started as a recital for the students in his studio, “but then turned into something really cool.”

With the loss of his longtime pianist collaborator Lee Alan Nolan, who moved earlier this year, Hodgson reached out to local violin prodigy Erica MacArthur about the possibility of finding a string quartet to accompany the group.

“She reached out to her colleagues and formed a fantastic group — the Figaro Four, as they named themselves.” MacArthur will be joined by second violinist Anna Schaad Montgomery, violist Clayton Burns and cellist Fran Rogers.

Hodgson said that although professional singers are welcome to join future productions, the concept behind the workshop is to give students a venue to put into practice the skills required by the demanding art form.

The story of “Marriage of Figaro” continues the tale begun in “Barber of Seville.”

“So for many people, this opera’s characters are already quite familiar — but their circumstances have changed,” said Hodgson.

In “Barber,” a young nobleman named Almaviva wins his lover, Rosina, away from her lecherous guardian Dr. Bartolo with considerable help from his friend, Figaro.

“As ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ begins, it’s three years later. The young lovers are now the Count and Countess Almaviva. Figaro is the count’s personal valet, and he’s engaged to marry the countess’ maid, Susanna,” said Hodgson.

“This was my first love, as far as opera goes. Long before I realized that I would sing opera, I used to listen to this opera over and over.

“It also helps that I have a ‘Susanna’ and a ‘Figaro’ in my studio already, and I realized I could cast everyone else from my student roster.”

Hodgson noted that the project began as a farewell performance for Britney Brown, who will portray Susanna before she departs for University of California, Los Angeles, this fall. Brown is a fixture in the local performance community, posing a triple threat for her singing, performing and dancing abilities.

Starring opposite her is Kevin La Brie, a popular staple in the local theater scene notable for his commanding stage presence and expansive range.

Hodgson, himself a celebrated baritone in the professional opera community, will play the count, opposite Yihfen Chen.

Other cast members include Heather McGaha (Cherubino), Sophia Montenegro (Marcellina), Elliott Keeter (Don Bartolo), Tyler Underwood (Don Basilio), Stuart Nissim (Don Curzio), Lily Johnson (Barbarina) and Geoffrey Brown (Antonio).

Hodgson said that he believes audiences will have an easier time connecting to the story, since it will be sung in English.

“Future projects will welcome interested singers from the community, as I hope to formalize the workshop into a class.”

Admission is a suggested donation of $10 per person. For additional information visit www.ridgecrestoperaworkshop.com.

Story First Published: 2018-08-31