The beauty of operas comes from intense planning, as said by William Shomos, director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Opera. This semester, “The Marriage of Figaro,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was picked unanimously by the UNL Opera board as their latest performance.
“When I choose an opera, I’m looking at which students are going to be in the program,” Shomos said. “I make this decision in the spring before the semester [starts].”
“The Marriage of Figaro” is a story about two servants, Figaro and Susanna, who are under one coquettish Count Almaviva who’s trying to thwart their marriage every step of the way. Shomos said the importance of this opera is because Mozart’s arrangements are beautiful, and it fits his students’ pool wonderfully.
“We come up with a conceptual design, a scenic design, a costume design [and] a lighting design,” Shomos said.
When it comes to the actual practice itself, Noah Stussie, a cast member from “The Marriage of Figaro,” said it’s really just about the learning and repetition.
“Auditions start pretty much [the] first or second week of the semester, and then every show throughout the year is cast from those auditions,” Stussie said. “So for the rehearsals pretty much started the week after auditions.”
Shomos said the process is pretty tight, with 10 weeks throughout the semester and daily rehearsals that can last up to three hours. The cast starts with a script reading, which helps with their understanding of the opera, and then they go straight into practicing. Shomos said it’s important to put effort within the practices and also outside of them.
“It’s a two-way street. We have the rehearsal hall, where we teach them the techniques of how to go about this, and then they have to do it on their own,” Shomos said.
Stussie said that as someone singing in the opera, there’s immense pressure to get it right, especially as one of the performers, and that dealing with the scripts can be pretty hectic.
“Generally we’ll run the scene and the next time we run it, we’re expected to kind of have it mostly memorized,” Stussie said. “By that point, hopefully we should have all the blocking down.”
Stussie said that despite these pressures it really isn’t as bad as it seems. Especially with Shomos being his director, Stussie said that it was actually a productive experience given how accommodating Shomos tries to be.
“I know [Shomos] has his UNL email always open and he’s very willing to work with people and kind of check [things] last minute,” Stussie said.
When it came to Shomos himself, he said that giving leeway is necessary, especially with the arrangement of “The Marriage of Figaro.”
“You have to listen to each other, you have to think in terms of speaking rather than singing, but you’re doing it in your singing voice,” Shomos said.
All in all, hosting an opera is difficult but not impossible. As aforementioned by both individuals, it seems that planning is key and a lot of self-dedication is needed. Especially with Shomos, who’s been doing this for many years.
“Am I proud of it? Yes. Is it going to be a good show that the audience is going to enjoy? I guarantee it,” Shomos said. “But for all of us, it’s onto the next one.”