Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Feb. 9, 1996

Russian guest directs Figaro

by Curt M. Pratt, News Service intern

Students involved in the production of The Marriage of Figaro are working with one of Russia's greatest opera stage directors.

The comic opera, a joint ISU Theatre and music department production, is being staged by guest artist Elionora Titkova, director of music theater at the Novosibirsk (Russia) State Conservatory of Performing Arts.

"Madame Titkova is considered one of Russia's greatest opera stage directors and we feel so proud to have her here working with us," said music director Don Simonson, associate professor of music.

"It was very interesting at first because Madame Titkova hardly speaks any English, and no one really spoke Russian," he said. "We had to use interpreters most of the time, but after a while, we just got used to the body gestures and the music was our language.

"Having Madame Titkova here has given the students an experience of a lifetime," Simonson said. "It's a cultural experience they've never had and it shows them that music knows no natural boundaries."

Natalya Lyashenko, professor of choral music with the Novosibirsk State Conservatory, is coaching the chorus and sharing conductor responsibilities with Kirk Smith, conductor of the ISU Symphony Orchestra. Music faculty member Janet Alcorn is the vocal coach.

Other faculty involved are set designer Fritz Sabo, associate theater professor; choreographer Linda Sabo, temporary music instructor; costume designer Joe Kowalski, assistant theater professor; and lighting designer Jim Trenberth, assistant music professor.

The Marriage of Figaro, perhaps Mozart's greatest comic opera, revolves around Figaro, the newly promoted major-domo of the castle of Count Almaviva.

Figaro plans to marry the count's chamber-maid, Susanna, but learns on the eve of his wedding that the count intends to invoke an old feudal privilege and spend the night with Susanna. What follows is a battle of wits between the classes, mistaken identity and escapades.

"This play is about the senselessness of class distinction," Simonson said.

The opera will be presented in Fisher Theater at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15; Saturday, Feb. 17; Friday, Feb. 23; and Saturday, Feb. 24; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18.

The unusual performance schedule is designed to give the student singers adequate rest between performances.

Tickets are $9.75 and available at the Iowa State Center box office or through TicketMaster.

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