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4/20/2006 Mozart opera scenes to be presented on Linfield stage

McMINNVILLE ? Operatic singing, dramatic costumes and scenes from three light-hearted love stories by Mozart will be featured during "Mozart on Stage" on Friday, May 12, at 8 p.m. in Melrose Auditorium at Linfield College.

The evening is the culmination of the Linfield Opera Theatre, a one-credit course offered each spring to give students operatic experience. This is the 14th production of the program, directed by Gwen Leonard, professor of music at Linfield. She is assisted by David Howell, stage director, Brian Conaster, pianist, and Edith Reynolds, costumer.

Scenes will be presented from three of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's most successful operas including "Cosi fan tutte," "The Magic Flute" and "The Marriage of Figaro," in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.

"Mozart wrote so much music, including operas," said Leonard. "He excelled in every genre of classical music."

A 20-member cast featuring Linfield students, a graduate and faculty member Jim Diamond, professor of chemistry, will perform. Senior Kelly Bechtell, a music major with a vocal performance emphasis, will play Don Alfonso in "Cosi fan tutte," the story of two men dating two sisters. After making a wager with a friend who maintains that women are essentially unfaithful, the men disguise themselves as different characters and attempt to court the opposite women.

"My character is the one who is causing the trouble in the play, which is always fun," said Bechtell, a three-year veteran of the Opera Theatre who viewed a number of operas in Vienna, Austria, while studying abroad last fall. "Having seen some professional productions has refocused my perspective on what an opera singer sounds like and has caused me to set my sights much higher for myself."

Students will also present the opening scene from "The Magic Flute," a story featuring an instrument that can be played in times of danger to modify the circumstances, and "The Marriage of Figaro," the story of a young couple, Figaro and Susanna, who team up with a countess to teach a philandering count a lesson.

Anne Muehleck, a freshman majoring in music performance and math education, has parts in both, playing Papagena in "The Magic Flute" and Susanna in "The Marriage of Figaro." She describes Mozart's operas as "lyrically witty and musically pleasing to the ear."

"Opera has a way of turning everyday speech into musical melody that moves those who hear it," she added. "It allows us to convey emotions not capable of being captured in words."

Sophomore Jeff Hays of Sheridan, a transfer student from Chemeketa Community College, is new to the Linfield Music Department this year and jumped at the chance to participate in the production.

"It's one of the most physically and mentally demanding music classes I've ever taken," said Hays, a music and computer science double major who plays Guglielmo in "Cosi fan tutte." "I'm surrounded by singers who are trained and technically balanced so I'm gaining in technical skill twice as fast as I normally would. When you have to act out a role, it changes the way you sing, and that's new to me."

The short scenes are ideally suited to young Linfield student vocalists, whose voices would be taxed by a full role at this age, Leonard said.

"If we can deliver one thing to broaden our students' solo vocal music experience, it's opera," she said. "We program pieces from significant composers so they're getting the best. They have to sing well and portray a character at the same time, so it really improves their abilities in solo singing."

The Linfield College Opera Theatre gives students an opportunity to combine singing and acting ability in the context of studying repertoire from the best of musical theatre. The workshop was established in 1993 when student singers collaborated with the Linfield Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Pergolesi's "La Serva Padrona."

The 90-minute performance is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Linfield Music Department at 503-883-2275.