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Datebook: MIOpera Presents Timeless Farce With A Clever Barber

MIOpera presents The Barber of Seville in this year's opener after a successful production of Die Fledermaus (pictured) last season.
MIOpera presents "The Barber of Seville" in this year's opener after a successful production of "Die Fledermaus" (pictured) last season.

"The Barber of Seville" has been popular for 300 years, give or take. The play was in 1775. Mozart did it and then Rossini did it in 1814. Now, MIOpera is doing it in Bloomington-Normal on Aug. 7 at Heartland Community College's Astroth Auditorium.

Artistic Director Tracy Koch and director John Koch said the story begins with a helpful barber. John Koch said there is a love-stricken young man, a beautiful young woman, and a lecherous chaperone. Count Almaviva, the lover, needs a boost from Figaro — a barber and jack of all trades — to win the beautiful Rosina and overcome obstacles, so many obstacles.

Part of the fun of it is keeping track of all the people and the many farcical ways things go wrong, said Tracy Koch, who is married to John.

"And the count goes to great lengths to get in the house as different people. The first time he serenades her. Then he becomes a soldier and then a music teacher," she said.

Two centuries after Rossini wrote his version of the story, it's still being performed.

"So many of the tunes are those everybody wants to listen to and everybody wants to sing," said John Koch.

And it was used in children's TV by Looney Tunes.

"The Rabbit of Seville! It probably got more notoriety from Bugs Bunny and all that music, and the overture music which isn't in the actual opera, just the overture," said John Koch.

Tracy Koch said the show can be taken into different time periods. She said MIOpera tried to straddle the line between modernity and tradition.

"We added some different textures that update it; making the characters more eccentric, more fun, larger than life. We're doing projections for our set. That will be really cool, incorporating modern technology onto the stage to give it that freshness," she said.

MIOpera traditionally gives emerging artists a chance to shine. But Tracy Koch said this year's production includes the lush sounds of professional voices in the main roles with up-and-comers in the supporting roles. The opera will be sung in Italian with English supertitles displayed at one side of the stage.

"If the actors and singers are doing their job, you will understand the show without learning the language. They will be expressing love through their voices and through their body language. Love, fear, hate, excitement, and their personalities; that's what makes opera so exciting, the emotions they experience and the story is so universal the audiences enjoy it and receive it," said Tracy Koch.

The cast includes: Count Almaviva-Macauley Allen; Bartolo-O. Neal Medina; Rosina-Sidney Megeff; Figaro-Bradley Morrison; Basilio-Karl Buttermann; and Bertha-Alesia Wall. The MIOpera Festival Orchestra is directed by Timothy Semanik.

In October, MiOpera takes on "LaTraviata."

"The Barber of Seville" will be performed at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at HCC. General admission tickets are $20 and can be purchased at mioblono.booktix.com.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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