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'Barber of Seville' for all ages, languages

Portland Opera will offer a musical appetizer for those who wish to try the group’s signature dish this weekend.Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO: STUDIO MCDERMOTT - Bass-baritone Brandon Morales plays Doctor Bartolo in the bilingual adaptation of The Barber of Seville.

Portland Opera’s educational program, Portland Opera To Go, will offer a 50-minute bite of “The Barber of Seville” in a 2 p.m. performance at the Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro Saturday, Feb. 7.

The bilingual performance will feature four cast members in a short-form version of Gioachino Rossini’s classic tale that centers on the tangled love-at-first-sight story of Spanish-speaking Rosina and English-speaking Almaviva.Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO: STUDIO MCDERMOTT - The four-person bi-lingual cast will bring a shorter adaptation of a longer classic to life.

Portland Opera has put together an ensemble of performers who are fluent in both English and Spanish, Tiarks said. The four cast members, who are all making their Portland Opera debuts, are soprano Christina Rivera as Rosina, tenor Matt Chittick as Count Almaviva, baritone Jose Ramirez-Solano as Figaro and bass-baritone Brandon Morales as Doctor Bartolo.

“We’re thrilled that Portland Opera chose to take this fresh new twist on Rossini’s classic story,” said Bridie Harrington, Cultural Arts Program supervisor for the city of Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department’s Cultural Arts Division. “Because the two lead characters each speak a different language, the audience gets to step into their shoes as they navigate communicating in English and Spanish while falling in love.”

Rosina’s uncle Bartolo is plotting to marry her off to one of his old cronies until Figaro — the witty barber and man-about-town who speaks both languages — helps to untangle the mess with music and comedy.

“Figaro is the big Mr. Fix It around town,” said Mark Tiarks of the Portland Opera. 

“The Barber of Seville” especially lends itself to the under-an-hour program, which will be performed in more than 70 schools and community centers throughout the region, Tiarks said. 

Portland Opera To Go is one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest educational opera programs, he added, reaching hundreds of students and community members annually.

“This is our third year working with Portland Opera to offer a matinee production in our Walters Concert Season and we’ve had a fantastic turnout and response each year,” said Harrington. “Audiences should come ready to be entertained and have a great time — whether you’re an opera fan, an opera fan to be, or even just curious. The atmosphere is truly welcoming and electric inside the theatre.

“It’s been exciting to see kids giggle, respond to the performers and also fall silent when a high note fills the stage.”

With the region’s growing Spanish-speaking population, Tiarks said, this production not only introduces opera to an often unfamiliar audience, but connects to a “fast-growing group” that aren’t native English speakers.

“I felt it was important for Portland Opera to take the lead in creating something that would speak directly to the experiences of more and more young people who are charting their paths through a multi-cultural environment,” said general director Christopher Mattaliano. “I’m thrilled that this pioneering new production will bring the magic of opera to thousands of audience members, many of whom will be enjoying the live performance of opera for the first time.”

The matinee performance is part of the Walters Cultural Arts Center’s 2014-15 concert season, Harrington said, to expand viewing opportunities to all ages and “to decrease some of the traditional barriers to attending live performance.”

Harrington said ticket price, venue access from public transit and bringing children to a performance can often be challenges she hopes this show will offset.

“It’s important that we help nurture the next generation of music and theatre fans and opportunities like these are a great way for the Walters to do that,” she added.

A second matinee in the series will be this spring with Portland Center Stage’s performance of “All’s Fair In Love & Shakespeare” scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, April 18.

Audience members are encouraged to arrive early for the performance. There will be no reserved seating or advance ticket sales.

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