Mozart comes to Minot

The well-loved story-in-song of the servant Figaro, his beloved fiancee, Susanna, and Figaro’s skirt-chasing boss, the Count, are just a handful of delightful characters of Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” (“The Marriage of Figaro”).

The Western Plains Opera has gathered dozens of gifted performers to bring the tale to glorious life in Minot as the company presents “The Marriage of Figaro” on Friday at 7:30 p.m., and again Sunday at 3 p.m.

Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at Minot State University will be transformed into the Count’s palace in Spain.

“Mozart’s greatest comedy contains a raft of characters who will amuse and delight the audience,” said Kenneth Bowles, the general director. As the person at the helm of the company, Bowles assured area music lovers than the Western Plains board, which has brought opera to the area for decades, worked tirelessly and successfully to attract people talented enough at music and theater to do justice to the beloved opera.

That talent search is not always a long-distance effort. Bowles said Chad Armstrong, this year’s leading man, is a native of Estevan, Sask. Armstrong, who sang the role Tonio in “I Pagliacci” in Minot last year for Western Plains, just made his Italian debut and is winning praise for his strong stage presence and natural acting ability as well as vocal delivery.

Armstrong’s wife, Sara Louise Petrocelli, along with Amanda Hall and Michael Redding, who sing the roles of the count and countess, and Michael Posey who performs as Don Basilio also have been featured in Minot. Those performers and North Carolina soprano Catherine Park, who appears in “Figaro” as Susanna, are directed by another repeat Western Plains favorite, Michael Schell. Based in New Jersey, Shell directed “La Traviata” here in 2010.

Petrocelli, a recent district winner in Metropolitan Opera auditions, has appeared in main stage productions and participated in numerous concerts. She will be on stage at the Metropolitan Opera next year.

Hailed for her strong stage presence and sparkling soprano, Hall is winning kudos for both concert and operatic performances. Her 2012-13 season includes star turns in Hawaii and Connecticut and her professional European debut.

Baritone Redding, who sings the wayward Count, has delighted audiences from Florida and New Orleans to New York, Seattle and Boston.

Park, a North Carolinian, is a third-year fellow at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute. Critics have praised Park for her considerable depth, power and seamless voice, which she uses to bring Susanna to life in Minot.

Posey, who holds a diploma in musical performance from the prestigious Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, has performed thousands of times in more than 20 roles on stages in Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France. A recipient of numerous awards, Posey broadcast and recorded vocal chamber music in Austria, along with major operatic roles.

Minot State’s new young maestro, Scott Seaton, was chosen from more than 60 international orchestral conductors for the Western Plains production. He made his international debut in 2007 in Luxembourg and has conducted in North and South America and Europe

Several area musicians will be seen and heard in “Figaro” as well, Bowles said. Kimberly Beard appears as Marcellina, Rae-Mae Owens as Barbarina, and Eric Furuseth as Dr. Bartolo. Recent MSU graduate Jared Olson performs as the gardener, Antonio, and the chorus of happy peasants and a full orchestra fill out the production.

“A monumental amount of work goes into a production of this magnitude,” Bowles said, “beginning with hours of raising funds to bring America’s best young talent to Minot.” Casting and set design were long in the works as well.

Western Plains Opera worked toward a fitting musical event to crown the University’s 100th anniversary. The university’s Division of Music, which sponsors and supports the production, continues to play an ever-growing part of the success of opera locally, Bowles said.

His wife, DeVera Bowles, stitched one of her talents into “Figaro” as well, designing and producing – with willing assistants – more than 30 of the splendid costumes that brighten the Spanish palace.

To enjoy the sounds and sights of “The Marriage of Figaro,” everyone may reserve tickets by calling 858-3185 or purchasing them at the door, Bowles said. Seating is reserved, with costs $15, $20 or $25. Student group rates are available.