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Skylight Opera Theatre Presents THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO

When Skylight audiences last saw Figaro in The Barber of Seville, he was triumphant after engineering a romantic coup. Thanks to him, the lovely Rosina escaped the clutches of the distasteful Bartolo and landed in the arms of the dashing Count Almaviva. Fast forward 10 years to Part Two of The Figaro Story, and the coup is on the other foot. In The Marriage of Figaro, it's the affable barber's marriage day, but forces are in play that threaten his happiness.

Throw in an amorous teenager, a philandering husband, a tipsy gardener, and schemers and dreamers looking for love, and you have one of Mozart's finest and funniest operas. Charming, lighthearted and endlessly enjoyable, The Marriage of Figaro is a delight for opera newcomers and veterans alike.

Andrew Wilkowske returns in the role of Figaro in a rare treat: Both Figaro operas performed in one season. Wilkowske performed in the Skylight's production of Barber, which opened the current season in September, and is now back for this production of Marriage. These two operas are among the most-performed in today's standard repertoire, but rarely staged by the same company in the same season.

"Presenting The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro as The Figaro Story has truly enlightened us all as we prepare Marriage," said Artistic Director Bill Theisen, Stage Director for both productions. "It is easy to forget what these same characters experienced in the first story, and I think our characterizations are going to be much more complete because of this plan. Many of the artists in Marriage have sung their roles before but feel a deeper connection to the story this time around."

That is particularly true for Wilkowske, who is performing the role of Figaro in five productions this season alone. At the Skylight, Wilkowske sings in English instead of the original Italian. While it's often more challenging to sing opera in a language other than what it was written for, Wilkowske said, he welcomes the opportunity. "When you perform in the original language with supertitles, especially in a comedy, the reactions and timing seem to be more connected to the guy in the supertitle booth than anything happening on stage," he said. "So it's gratifying to have the audience go on the journey with us alone."

The Marriage of Figaro
By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Original libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
English Translation by Andrew Porter
Based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro

Place - The Country Estate of Count Almaviva near Seville, Spain
Time - 1795
ACT I- Figaro and Susanna, servants to the Count and Countess Almaviva, prepare for their wedding. Figaro becomes furious when he learns the Count has made advances toward his bride, and vows to outwit his master. The scheming Dr. Bartolo appears with his housekeeper Marcellina, whom he wants Figaro to marry as a way to cancel a debt he cannot pay. The page Cherubino enters and, finding Susanna alone, explains to her that he is in love with every woman in the house. He hides when the Count shows up angry because he had earlier caught Cherubino flirting with Barbarina, the gardener's daughter. The Count again pursues Susanna, but hides when the music master, Basilio approaches. When Basilio tells Susanna that Cherubino has a crush on the Countess, the Count orders Cherubino to join his regiment, then leaves Figaro to cheer up the unhappy fellow.

ACT II- In her bedroom, the Countess Rosina laments that her husband no longer loves her. Encouraged by Figaro and Susanna, she agrees to set a trap: they will send Cherubino, disguised as Susanna, to a rendezvous with the Count. When Susanna goes off to find a ribbon, the Count arrives and Cherubino hides in the wardrobe. When the Count hears a noise from within, the Countess tells him that Susanna is inside. Taking his wife with him, the Count leaves to get tools to force the wardrobe door. Meanwhile, Susanna has reentered unseen and observed everything. She helps Cherubino escape through the window, then takes his place in the wardrobe. When the Count and Countess return, both are stunned to find Susanna in it. All seems well until the gardener Antonio appears, complaining that someone has jumped from the window, ruining his flowers. Figaro, who has come to announce that everything is ready for the wedding, pretends that it was he who jumped. Bartolo, Marcellina and Basilio, storm in, waving a court summons for Figaro. Delighted, the Count declares the wedding postponed.

20-minute intermission between Acts II and III

ACT III- While visiting him in his study, Susanna leads the Count on with promises of a rendezvous. Excited at first, he grows doubtful when he spies her conspiring with Figaro; he vows revenge. Marcellina is astonished but thrilled to discover that Figaro is in fact her long-lost natural son by Bartolo. Mother and son embrace, provoking Susanna's anger until she learns the truth. Finding a quiet moment, the Countess recalls her past happiness, then joins Susanna in composing a letter that invites the Count to the garden that night. Susanna manages to slip the note, sealed with a hatpin, to the Count, who pricks his finger, dropping the pin, which Figaro retrieves.

ACT IV- In the garden, Barbarina, after unsuccessfully trying to find the lost hatpin, tells Figaro and Marcellina about the coming assignation between the Count and Susanna. Figaro inveighs against women and leaves, missing Susanna and the Countess, ready for their masquerade. Alone, Susanna rhapsodizes on her love for Figaro who, overhearing, thinks she means the Count. Susanna hides in time to see Cherubino woo the Countess until the Count chases him away and sends his wife, who he thinks is Susanna, to wait for him. By now Figaro understands the joke and, joining the fun, makes exaggerated love to Susanna in her Countess disguise. The Count returns, seeing, or so he thinks, Figaro with his wife. Outraged, he calls everyone to witness his judgment, but now the real Countess appears and reveals her identity. Realizing the truth, the Count asks his wife's forgiveness. The couples are reunited, and so ends this mad day.


Stage Director: Bill Theisen
Music Director: Jamie Johns
Set Designer: Van Santvoord
Costume Designer: Carol J. Blanchard
Lighting Designer: Kurt Schnabel
Production Stage Manager: Jessica Berlin Krivsky

Figaro: Andrew Wilkowske
Susanna: Alicia Berneche
Dr. Bartolo: Thomas J. Weis
Marcellina: Jennifer Clark
Cherubino: Diane Lane
Count Almaviva: Kurt Ollmann
Don Basilio/Don Curzio: William Lavonis
Countess Almaviva: Tanya Kruse
Antonio: Ryan Matthew Porter
Barbarina: Susan Wiedmeyer

Music Director/Piano: Jamie Johns
Flute: Kristen Fenske
Clarinet: Christian Ellenwood
Oboe: Phillip Koch
Bassoon: Lori Babinec
Horn: Richard Tremarello

Alicia Berneche (Susanna) Alicia returns to the Skylight after appearing as Mariane in Tartuffe, Yum-Yum In The Mikado, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore, Mag/Cissy in Ballymore, and Irena in The Chekhov Trilogy. She is acclaimed for her interpretations of contemporary roles such as Daisy in The Great Gatsby at The Lyric Opera of Chicago and Galileo's daughter in Galileo Galilei by Philip Glass and Mary Zimmerman at The Goodman Theatre, Brooklyn Academy Of Music, and The Barbican in London. She has also performed leading roles at The Metropolitan Opera, Portland Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Opera Omaha, and Virginia Opera.

Jennifer Clark (Marcellina) Jennifer returns to the Skylight after appearing as Lady Jane in Patience. Other Skylight roles include Lady Pernelle in Tartuffe, Cecilia March in Little Women, Katisha in The Mikado, Zita in Gianni Schicchi, the nurse in Romeo & Juliet, Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw, Kate Cassidy in Ballymore, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, the Wife in A Chekhov Trilogy, Tisbe in Cinderella, Helen Lenoir in Over the Moon, Bianca in The Rape of Lucretia, Filipyevna in Eugene Onegin, and the third lady in The Magic Flute.

Tanya Kruse (Countess) Tanya's critics praise her "impressive soprano voice that literally soars" and which "combines unreserved commitment with complete technical control." At Skylight Opera Theatre, Kruse has been seen as Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly and Margaret in The Midnight Angel. Some of her other favorite roles include Rusalka in the Dvo?ák opera of the same name, Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte, and Angelica in Suor Angelica. She is a past winner of the Wisconsin District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Tanya is also familiar locally for her soloist appearances with the Bel Canto Chorus in Verdi's Requiem, jointly produced with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle and Barber's Prayers of Kierkegaard; and in a joint recital with MSO Principal Clarinetist Todd Levy at the Pabst Theater. Kruse has sung the soprano solos in Strauss's Vier Letze Lieder, Orff's Carmina Burana, Mozart's Coronation Mass and Solemn Vespers, Schumann's Spanische Liebeslieder, Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5, and Handel's Messiah.

Diane Lane (Cherubino) Diane last appeared on the Skylight stage as The Obscure Object of Desire in Let's Misbehave. Past Skylight roles include Elmire in Tartuffe, Carmen in The Tragedy of Carmen, Pitti Sing in The Mikado, Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, The Fox in The Little Prince, Isabella in The Italian Girl in Algiers, Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, Tania in A Chekhov Trilogy, and Rosina in The Barber of Seville. Diane has performed with many opera companies including Glimmerglass Opera, Central City Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Orlando Opera and Biel Opera in Switzerland. In addition to performing and teaching singing, she is also a practitioner of the Feldenkrais Methodâ of movement education.

William Lavonis (Basilio/Don Curzio) William is currently in his 14th and final year as Professor of Voice and Director of Opera and Musical Theatre at UW-Milwaukee, where he has produced, directed, conducted, coached, accompanied, and performed in such stage works as Dialogues of the Carmelites, The Marriage of Figaro, Gianni Schicchi, The Crucible, L'Ormindo, West Side Story, and most recently The Coronation of Poppea and Hair. The South Jersey native has also performed nationally in more than 100 roles in opera and musical theatre. His Skylight credits include Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, Goro in Madame Butterfly, and the Duke in Patience. In his retirement from UWM, Bill looks forward to continuing to serve the Milwaukee community as a vocal coach, music director and performer.

Kurt Ollmann (Count Almaviva) Kurt made his professional debut at the Skylight in 1978 and has appeared here in more than a dozen roles, most recently Emile de Becque in South Pacific. His wide-ranging international career in recital, concert, and opera has included Pelléas at La Scala-Milan, Valentin in Faust with the Châtelet Opera in Paris, and appearances with the opera companies in Vienna, Rome, Santa Fe, Seattle, Washington, Los Angeles, and at New York City Opera. Among his many recordings are Roméo et Juliette with Placido Domingo, Gershwin's Oh, Kay! with Dawn Upshaw, Bernstein's Candide and West Side Story, and Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole under Previn. Kurt joined the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee music faculty in 2002. In recent seasons he has performed with Off the Wall Theater, Renaissance Theaterworks, and Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee.

Ryan Matthew Porter (Antonio) Ryan is making his debut with Skylight Opera Theatre after performing professionally in the Great Lakes Area for nearly 15 years. Known for his expansive vocal range, Ryan has performed as a baritone, tenor and countertenor with various ensembles throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East. Local ensembles he has performed with include Florentine Opera Company, Madison Opera, Madison Symphony, and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra among others. Upcoming engagements include One World Symphony in New York City and a recital tour with Jamie Johns, the Music Director and Pianist for this show. A former student of the Peck School of the Arts, Ryan is pleased to be sharing the stage with mentors William Lavonis and Kurt Ollmann.

Thomas J. Weis (Bartolo) Showing his vocal versatility, Thomas has appeared as leading man in Kiss Me Kate and The Music Man with the Heartland Festival, Grandpa Moss in Skylight Opera Theatre's production of The Tender Land, and as bass soloist in Handel's Messiah with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Thomas is an active voice teacher and performer at Carroll University, offering recitals, vocal workshops, and many faculty collaborations. He is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and serves on the Wisconsin board of that organization. Thomas is currently teaching voice at the Waukesha County Conservatory of Music in Hartland.

Susan Wiedmeyer (Barbarina) Susan is delighted to be returning to the Skylight after performing as one of the Major General's daughters in last season's The Pirates of Penzance. A St. Olaf College graduate, she is currently working on her Master's degree at UW-Milwaukee where she studies with Dr. Connie Haas. In 2007, she won first place at the Wisconsin NATS Competition and was an Encouragement Award Winner at the Metropolitan Opera Auditions (Upper Midwest Region-Wisconsin District). Susan has enjoyed roles at Catherine in Pippin, Betty in The Threepenny Opera, Sandrina in La Finta Giardiniera, Yum Yum in The Mikado, and Eurydice in Orpheus in the Underworld.

Andrew Wilkowske (Figaro) Andrew returns to the Skylight after performing as Germont in La Traviata, the Father in Hansel and Gretel, the title character in Don Pasquale, Figaro in The Barber of Seville, Leporello in Don Giovanni and Strephon in Iolanthe. Other recent operatic credits include Papageno in The Magic Flute with Eugene Opera and Indianapolis Opera, and the role of Noah in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath, in which he will reprise at Carnegie Hall later this year.

Bill Theisen (Stage Director) Bill made his professional theatre debut at Skylight Opera Theatre in 1981 and began his tenure as this company's Artistic Director in 2004. He has directed over 100 productions for theatre and opera companies from coast to coast. Recent directing credits include The Pirates of Penzance for Santa Fe Opera as well as the Skylight and Virginia Opera, Showboat for Gateway Playhouse, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris for the University of Iowa, The Fourth Wall for Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Sweeney Todd for Cleveland Opera, A Little Night Music for Carnegie Mellon University, The Gondoliers for Seaside Music Theatre, Seussical for First Stage Children's Theater, The Magic Flute for Virginia Opera and The Mikado for Opera Carolina. Skylight directing credits include The Barber of Seville, La Boheme, Souvenir, Patience, South Pacific, The Tragedy Of Carmen, Animal Crackers, The Mikado, The Spitfire Grill, H.M.S. Pinafore and the world premiere production of Over The Moon With Gilbert and Sullivan.

Jamie Johns (Music Director/Pianist) A pianist/conductor, Jamie is currently a coach/accompanist with Florentine Opera Company and a frequent guest artist with Skylight Opera Theatre. Conducting highlights include The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, Romeo and Juliet, The Coronation of Poppea, and La Traviata. Favorite shows on which Jamie has served as music director are The Last Five Years, Little Shop of Horrors, Cabaret, Archy and Mehitabel, Jacques Brel..., and The World Goes Round. Accompanying Gary Briggle as Noel Coward, Jamie has performed A Talent to Amuse; An Evening with Noel Coward, in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Sarasota, and Sacramento. Other companies Jamie has worked for include Lyric Opera Cleveland, Orlando Opera, Madison Rep, Milwaukee Rep, Bel Canto Chorus, Present Music, Writers' Theatre (Chicago), and Milwaukee Opera Theatre.

Jessica Berlin Krivsky (Stage Manager) Jessica has worked with theatres across the country, including the Dallas Theatre Center, The Denver Center, The Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, Casa Manana, Studio Arena, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, and San Jose Rep. She served as the production manager for Milwaukee Shakespeare for four seasons. Most recently, she stage managed The Pirates of Penzance, Blues in the Night, I Do! I Do! and The Producers for the Skylight. Jessica also teaches stage management at UW-Milwaukee.

Carol J. Blanchard (Costume Designer) Carol is thrilled to be returning to the Skylight, where her work was seen in La Traviata, La Boheme and The Barber of Seville. She has designed for companies such as Cleveland Symphony's Blossom Opera (Falstaff), Hillman Opera (Hansel and Gretel), Shakespeare in the Park (Much Ado About Nothing, A Winter's Tale), First Stage Children's Theatre (Seussical, The Sleeping Beauty), Karamu Theatre (Devil Mas, Hamlet Jones), and the Champlain Shakespeare Festival (Love's Labours Lost). Her Chicago credits include Victory Gardens Theatre (Four Places, Love Person, I Sailed with Magellan), Goodman Theatre/Silk Road Theatre (Yohen), Drury Lane (Barefoot in the Park, Of Thee I Sing), Porchlight Music Theatre (Sweeney Todd, Pacific Overtures, Once on This Island), Appletree Theatre (Wings, Match), PTAP ( 7 Doors, Einstein's Dreams) and The Silk Road Theatre Project (Caravaggio, Merchant On Venice, Pangs of the Messiah). She has been honored with a Joseph Jefferson Award for Costume Designand an After Dark Award for her collaboration in the Silk Road Theatre's Golden Child.

Kurt Schnabel (Lighting Designer) Kurt Schnabel returns to the Skylight after lighting The Producers, La Boheme, La Traviata, The Midnight Angel, South Pacific, Man of La Mancha, The Last Five Years, Romeo & Juliet and The Fantastics. Favorite local credits include First Stage Children's Theatre's Seussical, the Musical, Milwaukee Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and Bialystock & Bloom's Batboy - The Musical.

The Marriage of Figaro performances are scheduled for January 29, 30, 31, and February 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13 and 14, 2010. Evening performances are on select Wednesdays through Sundays. Matinees are on select Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Ticket prices range from $20 to $62. Group, senior, student, and various other discounts are available.

Paul Kosidowski, arts columnist for Milwaukee Magazine, will conduct a live interview with the artists after the Wednesday, Feb. 3, performance. The third in the "Skylight Bar & Grill 'Em" series, it will be held in the Skylight Bar & Bistro on the second floor of the Broadway Theatre Center. It is free and open to ticket holders and non-ticket holders alike.

The free Johnson Bank Cabaret Series will be held in the Skylight Bar & Bistro every Friday and Saturday evening after the show. During The Marriage of Figaro,the cabaret is dedicated to the non-singing legends of Broadway. Titled Women Who Can't Sing, it will feature Laura Gordon, Angela Iannone and Tami Workentin, with Jack Forbes Wilson on piano. The women -- three of Milwaukee's brightest theatre performers - will pay tribute to the delightful non-singers of Broadway, showcasing songs written for and performed by Gwen Verdon, Lauren Bacall, Chita Rivera, Elaine Stritch, Marlene Dietrich and a brand new addition to the pantheon of the tunefully-challenged, Meryl Streep. Included are show stoppers from Chicago, Sweet Charity, Redhead, Applause, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Mamma Mia.

Skylight Insights, an engaging opportunity to learn more about the production, are held in the Salon before all Wednesday and Sunday performances. Insights for The Marriage of Figaro will be lead by Corliss Phillabaum, retired from 40 years of teaching theatre and directing opera at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The Marriage of Figaro is sponsored by UPAF.
Skylight Opera Theatre is a nationally recognized producer of the full-spectrum of Music Theatre.

The Skylight is proud to be a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF), which provides major annual financial support. Through community support of the United Performing Arts Fund, UPAF Member and Affiliate Groups are able to provide education and outreach to over 400,000 children, provide over 2,000 live performances and reach over 1,000,000 people every year. When everyone supports the arts through UPAF, they help our local economy, improving education and strengthening outreach programs to the disabled and elderly - all while adding culture to their own life. Support of UPAF is critical to UPAF Member Groups' ability to continue to offer exceptional live performances, award-winning education and outreach programming and substantial economic impact to our region. To learn more about UPAF or to donate, go to

The Skylight is supported in part by grants from the NEA, Wisconsin Arts Board, the City of Milwaukee Arts Board, and CAMPAC. The Skylight is a member of OPERA America; Visit Milwaukee; Historic Third Ward Association; Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin; Theatre Wisconsin; Cultural Alliance and a cultural partner of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's Arts in Community Education (ACE) Program. This theater is an equal opportunity employer. Except in plays where race itself is an issue, casting is decided based on ability, not race.

This production was supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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