Al Simmons remembers the first time that he heard the music of Gioachino Rossini, the Italian composer who wrote thirty-nine operas. “I was seven years old watching Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in the cartoon version of ‘The Barber of Seville,’” he said. “Since then I have listened to a lot of Rossini’s playful music. I enjoy his sense of humor.”
Simmons is the next artist to come to the area compliments of the Marshall County Arts Cooperative. While here, he will perform “Figaro’s Close Shave” or “The Barber of Seville Styled by Al Simmons” Tuesday, March 26, at 7:00 p.m. at the Waterville Opera House. Admission is free.
The piece was commissioned by the Manitoba Opera. To create his one-man show of the classic opera, Simmons listened to the entire opera over and over while reading various translations of the Italian words. “I was surprised by how really funny it was,” he said. “The entire story was three hours; I had to shorten it to 45 minutes.”
Simmons had to decide which parts of the plot to keep and which parts to leave out. “I would be playing all of the rolls myself so it was necessary to change some words to keep the story moving,” he explained. “The songs that were sung solo were no problem but I soon realized that I would have to be two or three people in the same songs. I decided that I would perform those songs as a kind of a puppet show.”
According to Simmons, most people are familiar with the opera’s melodies but only serious opera buffs know just how funny the opera is. “I’ve been touring the show for six years and I’m continually finding more humor in Rossini’s most popular opera,” he said. “The show is great fun to perform but my favorite part is the question and answer section at the end. I never know what will happen during these last fifteen minutes.”
In addition to the public performance, Simmons will perform for students at Blue Rapids Elementary School, Frankfort Elementary School, Marysville Elementary School, Marysville Junior High School, Summerfield Elementary School, and Waterville Elementary School.
Simmons’ performance for the schools is quite different than his public performance, however. For the students he will perform “Sounds Crazy: The Science of Sound” where he will use his talents as an inventive musical comedian to broaden the students’ understanding of the elements of music. He will help develop the students’ musical knowledge of pitch, beat, tempo, rhythm, and dynamics by singing in a variety of genres and playing rhythm games. Simmons will also explore the principles of sound waves, vibrations, resonance, and pitch.
People may contact Wayne Kruse, the arts cooperative’s executive director, at 785-713-2077 for more information about Simmons’ performance and visit.