The National Arts Centre Orchestra brings Mozart’s Figaro in Concert to the Southam Hall stage at the National Arts Centre June 12-14 at 8pm.
The cast includes a host of guest performers along with the NAC Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Shelley. The performance includes Joshua Hopkins as Count Almaviva, Erin Wall (who just gave a phenomenal performance in the NACO’s Lisiecki and Ravel in Vivier’s Lonely Child last month!) as Countess Almaviva, Adriana Churchman as Susanna, Gordon Bintner as Figaro, Katarzyna Sadej as Cherubino, Sharon Azrieli as Marcellina, Daniel Lichti as Bartolo, Jacques Arsenault as Basilio and Don Curzio, Anna-Sophie Neher as Barbarina, Clarence Frazer as Antonio, and the Ewashko Singers performing as the chorus.
I had a chance to speak with Soprano Sharon Azrieli ahead of these performances. The Montreal native has an impressive history, both in education, her personal life, and in music. Not only is she a well-known figure in opera, but is an interior designer who runs the magazine Home in Canada. She obtained her second degree in interior design from the Parsons School of Design, after her degree in Art History.
I’m sort of the poster child for how hard it is to be a singer with babies—as they were growing up, so did I.—Sharon Azrieli
She says “I’m sort of the poster child for how hard it is to be a singer with babies” but said that “as they were growing up, so did I.” After a horrible divorce put a temporary stop to her career, “[she] went back to Montreal and became a cantor, the first female cantor in Montreal at the time. At the only reformed synagogue in Montreal, between 2000 and 2003.” She says that her story is “sort of a roundabout of the twist and turns of being a singer.” Azrieli made her MET Opera debut in late November, in a role in Suor Angelica by Puccini.
The NAC Orchestra’s show will be a performance of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, sung in Italian with subtitles in English and French. The opera is in four acts, composed by Mozart, with the Italian libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It is an opera buffa, a comedic opera genre that hails from mid-18th century Naples. The opera is set near Seville, at the castle of Count Almaviva; it opens with the wedding preparations of Figaro and Susanna and the story quickly goes awry. An intricate opera full of twists, mistaken identities, and ruined plans, this show is one not to be missed! This show is going to be a real treat for the audience. Azrieli said “it was supposed to be stand and sing with books in front and at the last minute the director called me up and said we’re going to be fully staged!”
The thing about Mozart is he was not just a genius in music. He was a genius in psychology. Mozart did not just get the music of God, but knows how to capture the human spirit.—Sharon Azrieli
In our final bit of conversation, we discussed the [unnecessary] fear and hesitance a lot of people have when they think about opera. Azrieli says, in response, “just come! There are surtitles in [English and French] so every word will be understood.” Opera doesn’t have to be figured as an elite art that only few can attend, but should rather be pivoted as a beautiful combination of costuming, classical music, and skilled singing. Azrieli says, “the thing about Mozart is he was not just a genius in music. He was a genius in psychology. Mozart did not just get the music of God, but knows how to capture the human spirit.”
Azrieli’s final piece of advice for a first timer at the opera is “Mozart, Mozart, Mozart!” She said that if you have the choice to see Mozart as your first two pieces, do it.
The NAC Orchestra performs Figaro at the National Arts Centre June 12-14 at 8pm. The performance runs approximately 3 hours, including intermission. Tickets are available online and range from $35 to $116. Student tickets and Live Rush are available for both performances.