Aug 05, 2020
Photo courtesy by Fresno State Theatre Opera

Graduate students set for first opera

Photo courtesy by Fresno State Theatre Opera

Photo courtesy of Fresno State Theatre Opera

Fresno State Opera Theatre will present its first full graduate performance in the university’s history Saturday in the Wahlberg Recital Hall of the music department.

The performance is “La Pizza Con Funghi” or “The Mushroom Pie,” by Seymour Barab.

Five graduate students from the music department have collaborated over the past several weeks to put on the full-fledged production, an opera that director and star Marielle Petricevich calls a “comedic opera full of witty jokes and situational humor that every college student will appreciate.”

“Mushroom Pizza” is a satiric, 50-minute, one-act comic opera by the late Barab who passed away at the age of 93 this past June. Some of Barab’s other works range from serious pieces, including “Philip Marshall” and “A Piece of String,” to operas for children including “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White,” and “Cinderella.”

“La Pizza Con Funghi,” a lighter one-act piece, became one of Barab’s most notable work and has been performed throughout the world. In 1998, the National Opera Association recognized Barab with a lifetime achievement award.

The opera is set in 19th century Italy and tells the story of four characters caught in a lovers’ quarrel with one another, full of miscues and witty humor which Dr. Anthony Bradford, professor of voice and opera at Fresno State, calls “not an artifact, but a living breathing association.”

“Opera is a combination of music, drama, artistry and design,” Radford said. “Although they created it 500 years ago to be this uber art, it’s all in one. It’s all shown here.”

The opera is not your typical opera; one scene in the production revolves around a stabbing with a pizza cutter.

“It is opera that makes fun of opera,” Radford said. “All of the crazy things that people think opera is—this is that opera.”

Another facet of the production is that it is almost entirely student-run.

“Because there are students enthusiastic about it, one thing we are able to do at Fresno State is that we can amass an orchestra of 80 people, or singers of 30 to 40 people, that often professional companies don’t have the money to pay to do that,” Radford said. “Since they are students, we can do bigger things.”

Petricevich also commented on the attraction of “Mushroom Pizza,” which allows for students to see their peers perform in an English, short production that is accessible for all.

“Music goes across cultures,” Petricevich said. “It’s completely understandable from one culture to the next and expresses a lot about what a culture does and doesn’t do. Music influences culture and culture music.”

Tickets are $5 dollars and can be purchased online at or at the door. “La Pizza Con Funghi” begins Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Wahlberg Recital Hall.

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