Short Foray: Opera Preview – Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro

Another: Try it…you might like it experience!


Young up-and-coming opera singer Paul Gaugen sings the fickle Figaro at the Lakeside Opera Guild Preview.

I have found a great way to get exposed to the opera art form in a most enjoyable way: The Seattle Opera Guild’s previews. “No way!” you say?

First, let me explain: I am not an opera buff…my Mother was saddened that only one of her 10 children enjoyed something she so loved! That child was not me! My take: it is “opera”, it is long and boring, over-dramatic and mostly sung in a foreign language! In an age where texts are too long and Twitter took off to solve that problem, opera is increasingly a hard sell.

Interestingly, Seattle remains a bastion of the art form with The Seattle Opera and that means there are some opportunities out there to learn about it and develop an appreciation of this age-old art! Really! The next Seattle Opera offering is the famous Mozart Italian opera Marriage of Figaro and that was the preview I attended last week. The performance will run January 16, 17, 20, 23, 24, 27, 29, & 30. Tickets are available with best availability and prices on January 24th at the 2pm performance, at this writing.

I have had the pleasure to attend several of the Lakeside Opera Guild’s previews and have enjoyed them immensely. Here are a few special things to recommend it: the group has its previews at The Summit Retirement Community on First Hill, a central location with street parking available. It is a great little venue and audience. The event costs $15, but your first one is free so you can try it and see if it is for you. The preview includes a lively narration of the up-coming current opera and usually three singers doing excerpts to the wonderful and rich accompaniment of a wonderful pianist, usually Kristine Anderson. They start in the early afternoon and you are home in 2-3 hours so no traffic to contend with either way!

I have found the singing to be excellent and the narration revealing of the particular opera and of opera in general. I have seen some amazing new and upcoming young singers and some great Seattle Opera regulars sing the highlights in these previews. This preview had outstanding young talent in Shelley Travers and Paul Gaugen and especially in the spunky narrator/singer Sheila Houlahan who revealed tidbits of the childish child prodigy Mozart and his riches to rags story and ably explained the characters and plot points while introducing excerpts of this opera.

Travers has come from New York and finds the Seattle music scene much to her liking and is active in many productions. Gaugen was charming and has a wonderful voice. He is a resident singer for the Tacoma Opera and seeks a life-long career with an emphasis on opera. Houlahan, interestingly enough, is a very talented opera singer but she has decided to pursue her interests in film and voice-over and can be followed at www.sheilahoulahan.com. Presently she will begin filming a Netflix movie called Wallflower, based on the rave scene in Seattle where drugs, music and murder collided in real life. But, I digress!

FINAL WORD: This is a painless way to learn about opera and come to appreciate it and Seattle Opera. To attend you must have a member sponsor you which is not a problem. Julie Thompson is the lovely and lively new president of The Lakeside Guild. She is more than happy to talk to you about attending their previews and/or joining their group. Lakeside Guild is a friendly group and I have certainly enjoyed their preview events immensely!

Or, contact a Guild near you and ask for an invitation to their previews.

ADDED BONUS: The Lakeside Guild and Summit serve wonderful free refreshments after the previews!

NOTE: Maggie Larrick, reviewer for the Queen Anne/Magnolia News, who I have mentioned before as a great ballet critic, does opera as her first love. Check out what she has to say about specific operas at The Queen Anne/Magnolia News. Opening night for this one is January 16th and her review should appear in the January 20th issue.


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