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'Barber of Seville' promises great music, lots of laughs

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THE CAST OF the Opera Company of Middlebury’s production of “The Barber of Seville” rehearses for the upcoming show at the Town Hall Theater. Pictured with professional cast members is Middlebury resident Marshall Eddy pointing. The show will be performed June 5, 7, 9 and 11. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

MIDDLEBURY — Professional singers from all over the country descend on Middlebury this month for a fully staged production of “The Barber of Seville.” Rossini’s comic masterpiece is presented by the Opera Company of Middlebury, now in its sixth season.

The first performance is at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 5, with a 2 p.m. Sunday, June 7, matinee. There will be additional performances on Tuesday, June 9, and Thursday, June 11.

After last year’s sold-out success with “La Bohème,” the company wanted to try something fun.

“We’ve been joking that we wanted to do an opera in which the leading lady doesn’t die in the final act,” says director Douglas Anderson. “When we cast this show we not only looked for great voices, but for singers who are also comics, who have that comedic gleam in their eye.”

Anderson calls “The Barber of Seville” an opera for people who don’t think they like opera. “It’s hilarious from beginning to end,” he comments. “The story is funny, the characters are funny, and even the music is funny.”

One of the opera’s most famous songs — which includes the notorious line “Figaro Figaro Figaro Figaro!” — has turned up in Bugs Bunny cartoons, Our Gang comedies, and hundreds of parodies.

Meredith Ziegler plays the role of Rosina, the beautiful girl held captive by her jealous guardian, Don Bartolo (Stephanos Tsirakoglou). The dashing count Almaviva (Jonathan Blalock) enlists the help of the conniving barber Figaro (Nathan Wentworth) to free Rosina.

Other professional singers include Peter Campbell and Giliana Austin.

The seven lead singers are joined by a chorus of local performers.

“This is a great group,” says Anderson, “and they’re fearlessly doing all of the really crazy things I’m asking this chorus to do.”

One of the prominent locals is Marshall Eddy. If Middlebury had a star in the 1970s, it was Marshall Eddy.

Eddy, the art teacher at Middlebury Union High School, got leads in all of the big musicals produced by the Middlebury Community Players. He played Fagan in “Oliver!,” the Pirate King in “Pirates of Penzance,” and most famously Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1976.

And then he simply gave up acting. “I wanted to do a lot of other things,” says Eddy, “like concentrating on my singing.” In the 1980s he was a regular in the Vermont Symphony Orchestra chorus. He also formed a mime group at the high school, which performed for 12 years. And in his spare time he created unique carved pottery that could be seen at Frog Hollow Craft Center and elsewhere.

After this 30-year break, Eddy is making a triumphant return as the Chief of Police, who barges into the chaotic finale of Act II with the rest of his squad in tow. But the situation is so confusing and everyone looks so guilty that he doesn’t know who to arrest.

“When Doug called me I immediately said yes, because I really admire his work and wanted to be part of one of his shows,” Eddy says. The small comic role also appealed to him because he could squeeze in rehearsals while still teaching and pursuing his other interests.

And there was one other very important reason to take the part. “The grandkids have always heard I was an actor, but they never saw any of my shows,” Eddy says. “This is a chance to let them see their granddad up there doing it.”

Tickets are $35-$40, and may be purchased at www.townhalltheater.org, 382-9222, or in person at the THT box office (Monday-Saturday noon-5).

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