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OPERA : A Model Marriage for 'Figaro'

February 25, 1993|CHRIS PASLES | Chris Pasles covers music and dance for The Times Orange County Edition.

Susanna and Figaro spend the whole four acts of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" trying to tie the knot. Things went a lot more smoothly for soprano Helen Donath and her husband, conductor Klaus Donath, who will be working together in the Opera Pacific presentation of "Figaro" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center this week and next.

Helen, who will sing the role of Susanna, met Klaus in 1963 at a rehearsal in Cologne, West Germany.

"I never wanted to get married," she recalls, "because my mother has had two horrible ones. I thought, 'That's not for me. Vissi d'arte. I will give my life to the arts. I will never marry . . . .'

"Then this man comes to rehearsal, and never before and never since have I ever been tempted. This is the man of my life, and it's really wonderful. He came in there and my whole life changed from that day."

They married in 1965 "and it gets better all the time," Helen says. "We're aware of it and we cherish it and we're honored that the dear Lord lets us have this and this long career."

Most of their work together has been in Europe. Klaus conducted Mozart's "Don Giovanni" for Opera Pacific in 1990; this is Helen's first venture with the company. A luminary of the concert, recital and opera scene abroad, she received high praise as the governess in Britten's "The Turn of the Screw" with the Los Angeles Music Center Opera in 1991.

At 53, she still prefers the light and flexible lines associated with Susanna, rather than the weightier, more dramatic and thoughtful role of the countess.

"What I have always said is that I don't really have enough migraine headaches to play the countess," she laughs. "I'm a too-happy person. I'm a very happy person--and that's Susanna."

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