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Monday September 1st 2014

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The Barber of a Different Seville

By Jennie McKeon

In October, there was the murderous barber, Sweeney Todd, taking revenge on innocent townsmen looking for a shave.

Now, as a reprieve, the Pensacola Opera brings you “The Barber of Seville,” where the comedy is plentiful and the songs—as with all productions—are beautiful.

“Nobody dies,” assures Mitchell Hutchings, resident artist at Pensacola Opera. “It’s a light, playful opera.”

In one of Rossini’s most famous comedic classics, the barber Figaro works vigorously to help the love-struck Count woo the attractive Rosina away from her impending marriage to Dr. Bartolo. Characters dressed in disguise transform their surroundings until the inevitable chaos ensues.

“I have been fortunate to have directed, performed and attended over 30 productions of this comic masterpiece and always find myself smiling and laughing out loud as I study and reacquaint myself with its score,” said director Kyle Marrero.

Hutchings says the classic opera has some of the best melodies.

“Figaro’s aria is one of the highlights of the opera,” he said. “And there are all kinds of duets and chorus scenes that are over-the-top. I really enjoy new opera, but I also like to sink my teeth into the classics as well.”

Playing the role of Fiorello, the servant to the count, Hutchings is right in the middle of the chaos. When it comes to being on stage, Hutchings said he often gets lost in character.

“I’ll forget I’m even on stage and then I hear the audience,” he said.

Hutchings has only been with the opera for a year now, but says he and the other resident artists “gel” and he can’t say enough nice things about the entire opera staff.

“We know each other and we all want to create wonderful art through music, acting, singing and sometimes dancing,” he said.

The gelling comes in handy too, since rehearsal periods only last two weeks in general and the singers that fly in from bigger cities—usually to play the main roles—arrive only days before opening night.

“I started off in musical theatre as an undergrad, but this process is very different,” Hutchings said of preparing for an opera. “With opera, everybody comes in ready to go. Everybody is self-reliant. The directors have a really mapped-out plan. Maestro Jerome Shannon is one of the best. Him and Kyle are fantastic.”

Hutchings has only been singing since he was 19, before that he was in choirs. He’s 27 now. For most performers, that’s considered a late start.

“You can start that late. It proves to be a little more difficult,” he said. “More hard work and diligence.”

As an undergrad, Hutchings was a music major. It was then that he heard another singer rehearsing that he started to consider the opera.

“I realized I wanted to sound like that,” he said. “I hadn’t heard anything like that before, it was visceral.”

After voice lessons and a Master’s degree, Hutchings landed in Pensacola and hasn’t looked back to Cincinnati, where he came from.

“It’s a great company and brings in artists of the highest quality,” he said. “I was happy to leave snow and come to the beach.”

Hutchings notes that the Pensacola Opera has a knack for keeping its resident talent in the area.

“Four out of six resident artists will be returning,” he said. “It’s a fantastic company. It’s the reason I’m coming back.”

Meeting and working with artists like Michael Mayes, who will be playing Figaro, is a great perk for resident artists.

“He’s top notch,” Hutchings said of Mayes. “He’s also been in Barihunks [blog dedicated to attractive, male opera singers]. It’s a real site, you should check it out.”

While working with singers he admires, Hutchings still has to work on the task at hand—singing.

“When these musicians come in and start to sing, our mouths are just wide open,” Hutchings said. “We just have to remember that we’re professionals and that this is an everyday person. We all enjoy the art as much as we enjoy singing.”

Opera singers have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to belt their hearts out, but they have to act and sometimes even dance on stage.

“Not to mention singing in another language,” Hutchings added.

After the curtain rises, Hutchings says the singing, dancing, acting all becomes second nature.

“To be someone else for a night—there’s nothing else like it,” he said.

Even when his artistic instincts kick in, Hutchings still looks to progress as a musician.

“It still takes hard work—always will,” he said. “When you act your best and sing your best you come out more fulfilled as an artist. I hope to keep growing as an artist and keep growing beyond.”

No matter the hard work, there is nothing else Hutchings would like to do.

“It’s sort of like a dream, a fantastic dream,” he said about working with Pensacola Opera.

There’s nothing like watching talented singers and actors live their dreams on stage. And it’s a bonus that you get to hear beautiful classical music and not to mention, laugh a little.

“You won’t want to miss Pensacola Opera’s production—an international cast with beautiful sets and costumes at the historic Saenger Theatre,” Marrero said. “Every once and a while you need a good laugh. This show will give you a full evening.”

THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox
COST: $30-$110
DETAILS: 433-6737 or pensacolaopera.com

Beyond the Show
Want to meet with the artists and director of “The Barber of Seville”? The fun doesn’t have to stop after the production. After Friday’s show at 10:30 p.m. you can meet the artists while enjoying a catered dinner, wine and champagne at Saenger Theatre. Tickets are $35 per person. On Sunday, January 27 at 11:45 a.m. join in on the Director’s Brunch at Jackson’s Steakhouse to learn more about Pensacola Opera while sipping mimosas. Tickets for the brunch are $40 per person. Reservations are required. You can save your spot by calling 433-6737.