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Portland Opera aims for younger audiences with Rossini classic; the prequel to 'The Marriage of Figaro' stages at Keller Auditorium June 7-15

COURTESY: PORTLAND OPERA - 'The Barber of Seville' might be the ultimate opera buffa, or comedy. Portland Opera's Christopher Mattaliano says it's 'genuinely funny.'Like many arts organizations, Portland Opera wants to draw new fans, whether coming from the millennial set or Generation Y or any generation.

It has an established program, Young Patron Society, for arts lovers and theatergoers ages 21-40.

Partly with new fans in mind, Portland Opera brings back Rossini's "The Barber of Seville," perhaps the ultimate opera comedy, or "buffa."

It stages June 7-15 at Keller Auditorium.

"There are a handful of operas that fit into the opera buffa category, and this is the big one. That's why companies do it on a regular basis, because audiences love the piece," says Christopher Mattaliano, Portland Opera general director who directs "The Barber of Seville."

He adds: "This is one of the perfect first operas for people. It's very high energy, a story that is easy to follow: Boy meets girl, boy happens to be rich and privileged and arrogant, and he enlists a barber to get the girl from the guardian. A pretty easy and universal story and it's really delightful with entertaining music. ... People who might go for the first time tend to be amazed they know some of the music — they've heard it in commercials, movies, cartoons."

It's sung in Italian, as are many operas, but Mattaliano points out that captions with English translation, or surtitles projected above the stage, accompany "The Barber of Seville." That also helps with young opera-goers.

"That's the key reason people stay away from opera, but it's like watching a foreign movie," Mattaliano says. (Another stumbling block for young people: How to dress? He adds: "You see people in tuxedos and gowns, and hoodies. Whatever you're comfortable with wearing. Stick your toes in and see how it is.")

"The Barber of Seville" does fit the profile for first-time opera-goers. The opera tells the story of Count Almaviva, who has fallen for the charming Rosina, and enlists the help of the town barber Figaro to assist in winning her affection; together, they try to outwit her guardian Dr. Bartolo, who also vies for her hand.

"It's genuinely funny as opposed to straining to be funny," Mattaliano says.

It's the prequel to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," and Portland Opera has done it seven other times.

The cast stars baritone John Moore as the scheming barber Figaro, Aleksandra Romano as Rosina, tenor Jack Swanson making his Portland Opera debut as Almaviva and Eduardo Chama singing the role of Doctor Bartolo. Adam Lau is also making his debut as Don Basilio.

So, Mattaliano hopes young audience members come see the opera.

For only $100 young people can join the Young Patron Society, and get tickets to events and behind-the-scenes opportunities and more. Going after the younger demographic came out of a survey done by Portland Opera five years ago that showed audience members trending younger.

It also helps that high school and college student rush tickets go for $10 at the box office; next year, they'll be available online.

"The Barber of Seville" stages at 7:30 p.m. June 7, June 13 and June 15 and 2 p.m. June 9, at Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St. Tickets: starting at $35,

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