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Collaboration nets ‘greatest-hits version of ‘Figaro’

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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lyric Opera director, Robert Breault, works with the University of Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble as they prepare to perform Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro)." Paradigm Orchestra musical director, This is also the 20th year that Paradigm Orchestra musical director, Joel Rosenberg has collaborated with the group. They were rehearsing in University of Utah "Voice Box," on campus in Salt Lake City Wednesday, January 29, 2014.

By Catherine Reese Newton

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Feb 07 2014 06:09PM
Updated Feb 11, 2014 08:12AM

Performances in Libby Gardner Hall this week celebrate not only the nuptials of Figaro and Susanna, but also a 20-year collaboration between Robert Breault and Joel Rosenberg. Breault’s University of Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble and Rosenberg’s Paradigm Chamber Orchestra are teaming up in a streamlined, semistaged production of Mozart’s "The Marriage of Figaro."

"It’s kind of a greatest-hits version," Breault said, explaining that the opera’s running time will be cut roughly in half, mostly through the elimination of recitatives. He’ll help fill in the narrative gaps with spoken commentary. "We’ll keep it moving," he said. "It will be very clear what’s happening even though we can’t do supertitles."

Sets and props will be minimal, but that doesn’t mean the show will be static, Rosenberg said. "We’ll use the entire hall — the doors the audience comes through, the choir seats, some of the area on the main floor," he said. "It’s not a straight concert version; it will be acted."

Breault said the collaboration began when Rosenberg invited him to sing the tenor solos in Handel’s "Messiah" with one of the conductor’s other projects, the American West Symphony and Chorus of Sandy. Breault wasn’t available for all the dates but offered up his opera students. "He trusted me, and one of those students was Hugo Vera, who’s singing at the [Metropolitan Opera] now."

Singing operatic roles with an orchestra is a fantastic opportunity for college voice students, Breault said. "How do you, as a student, get your first anything?"

Breault himself took advantage of that opportunity a few years ago when he sang the role of Don José in "Carmen" with the Sandy orchestra in preparation for singing it with professional companies such as New York City Opera.

The experience benefits the orchestra musicians, too, Rosenberg said. "These people love the great classical works," he said. "That’s the fun of it — doing something together that you can’t do alone."

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