Bronx Opera marries 'Figaro' to English lyrics

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Move over, Metropolitan. In May, the city will see a Bronx-style “Marriage of Figaro.”

When Mozart’s classic debuts at Lehman College’s Lovinger Theatre on May 2, it will include at least two arias — those of Marcellina and Basilio in act four — that were cut from the celebrated Metropolitan Opera production that opened last fall.

“Even seasoned opera goers who have seen Figaro 20 times at the Met in the last 30 years may never have heard these arias before,” Bronx Opera Company founder and “Figaro” conductor Michael Spierman, 71, said during a recent rehearsal at the Amalgamated Houses’ Vladeck Hall.

“The basic structure of this opera involves a count who is not only the hero, but is revealed to have foibles,” Mr. Spierman said of the 18th-century comic masterpiece. “It’s based on the work of the French playwright Beaumarchais, who was one of the great movers and fomenters of discontent with the aristocracy.”

The Met’s multimillion-dollar “Figaro” featured impressive architectural machinery with lattices and chandeliers. The Bronx Opera Company is aiming for an intimate performance, in the spirit of every production in its 48-year history.

And — like all Bronx Opera productions — it will be delivered in English.

“When audiences come to a foreign language production, it’s with a certain detached quality,” Mr. Spierman lamented. And for the actors — all of whom, in this production, are native English speakers — “there’s a certain lack of the gut” when delivering a riposte in a foreign language.

“There’s something more immediate to it,” agreed soprano Smitha Johnson, who is playing Barbarina in the Bronx after performing in Italian-language productions of “Figaro” for other companies.

“But it’s more than the languages,” she continued. She said the Bronx Opera Company’s sparse sets and young performers give audiences a highly personal experience.

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