Moores Opera Center at the University of Houston starts its spring season traditionally and otherwise with The Marriage of Figaro and Moscow, Cheryomushki.
The first is a romantic successor to The Barber of Seville, written by Mozart and sung in Itallian with subtitles.
The second is a much lesser known work (though done to some acclaim last year in Chicago): a comedy about three Russian couples seeking an apartment, which debuted in 1959 and will be sung in English because as director Buck Ross puts it: "There's just really a lot of dialog in it and you don't want to hear a lot of dialog done in Russian by English speakers and also because it's more of a show that way."
"It's an ensemble piece rather than a star vehicle," he adds, explaining that he's wanted to do it for the last 15 years.
Two completely different casts carry out the works, he says. Ross, who founded the Opera Center in 1986, says they tailor their productions to the voices they have available, while keeping in mind that "our audience is a very adventurous audience; they're delighted we're not doing the same old thing all the time." And it's been 12 years since they've done Figaro.
"We're known for being the first university in the country to do a lot of pieces; this is a good example of that. Part of our mission as a university is to be expand the repertoire and we can take chances financially that a big opera company can't afford to. It's part of both educating our students and providing different kinds of experiences for the audiences as well," Ross says.
Asked why people should go see UH opera, Ross says:"It's fun. I mean that quite sincerely. I think you should be able to go to the opera the way you go to the movies. You shouldn't have to do preparation beforehand. You should just be able to show up, watch the show, have a good time and be moved by it and laugh at it and do all those things we want to do when we see anything in the theater. With surtitles and things now you don't have to study the story before you go. You can just come and watch it and enjoy it."
Performances of The Marriage of Figaro are: 7:30 p.m., January 24, 26, 27 and Moscow, Cheryomushki: 7:30 p.m., January 25 and 28; 2 p.m., January 27 at University of Houston's Moores Opera House, entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard. For ticket information call 713-743-3313 or visit the university's website. $12 students and seniors, $20 adults.