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Music students to share the art and accessibility of opera with ‘Figaro’s Wedding’

Senior Lauryn Wallentine and sophomore Colby Kendrick as Susie and Tony in ‘Figaro’s Wedding’ (Photos by KJ Jugar)

Liberty University’s School of Music invites audiences to enjoy modernized Mozart with “Figaro’s Wedding,” an adapted production of the famed composer’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro,” to be performed in the Tower Theater from Jan. 26-29.

Dr. Wayne Kompelien, a professor of voice, founded Liberty’s opera program in 1987 and began directing student operas annually in 1988, including productions of “La Bohème,” “The Magic Flute,” and “Cosi fan tutte.” The School of Music has staged its own version of The Marriage of Figaro three times with the adaptation that Kompelien and Dr. John Hugo, chair of the Department of Music Theory and History, created to both shorten and modernize the performance. Instead of an 18th century palace in Spain, the story plays out in a modern-day restaurant in New York City run by a member of the Mafia, and includes added dialogue instead of the traditional recitative, an opera term that refers to the moments when the singer adopts the rhythms and delivery of ordinary speech.

“It takes on more of a musical type of flavor, but it’s still all real Mozart when we sing,” Kompelien said, noting that he wants the show to share both the art and accessibility of opera. “You come out of the theater with these wonderful themes ringing through your head. We’ve got a talented group of students who sing really well, and I want the word ‘opera’ to have a good connotation. It will be very entertaining, light, and fun, and people will enjoy this genre that many of them have not partaken of. But they will still get a flavor of true opera.”

The production includes a 25-student cast, most of whom are studying voice as their primary focus, and another 20 students in the orchestra. Kompelien said the production will help students gain more experience in operatic performance and develop into better singers and actors.

“A lot of these students are vocal performance majors, and they are preparing to go on to graduate schools and have careers in singing pieces like this,” he said. “To be able to do a role in an opera like this is a real feather in your cap that you can put on your résumé. Any time you get an opportunity to do something like this, it’s invaluable to the students.”

Sophomore Colby Kendrick and senior Lauryn Wallentine, who play the male and female leads (renamed Tony and Susie in this version instead of Figaro and Susanna), said that the opportunity has helped them grow in multiple aspects of performance.

“This music is standard rep for everyone in opera, so to be able to learn it, perform this character, and get the music and story under my belt really prepares me for whatever I’ll get to do in the future,” Kendrick said. “The music itself is timeless, and also the comedy and different liberties we’re taking with the show are really fun.”

“We don’t really have a lot of (opportunities) in the Lynchburg area to do opera, and I’m able to work my skills on acting, singing, and even some choreography,” Wallentine said. “I’m excited for people to see the silliness of everything, but also the integrity of the opera and how beautiful it all is. A lot of people don’t know that they like opera until they see it.”

Performances of “Figaro’s Wedding” will be held Jan. 26, 27, and 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Liberty.edu/tickets.

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