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‘Magic Flute’ emits a lack luster note

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By Alicia Solomon

After the excitement, sturm und drang of Friday night’s season opening, Saturday’s second opening felt more relaxed, less crowded, more casual, less pressured  and the weather was calmer, too.  

Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (1791) is the ultimate kid friendly opera, and we did indeed see several beautiful little girls in beautiful little dresses; but I’m sorry to say this production will leave the kids bored instead of dazzled.

 When it debuted four years ago, I bemoaned the production’s lack of fantasy and flash: basically, a lot of walking around and singing on a bare stage.  

This time, it didn’t bother me so much, perhaps because I expected it; and I do understand why they have to use a production as many times as possible, to get their money’s worth.

The hand-applied gold and silver leaf walls have a stark, burnished beauty, and catch the lighting to great effect; while the often naked stage allows total focus to remain on the singers’ recreation of music that still enchants and compels in its complex simplicity after more than two centuries.

These singers do justice to that music, and save the production, at least for the more mature fans of vocalism. Charles Castronovo was dashing and passionate as Prince Tamino, his voice full and strong - hints of a budding Heldentenor?  

Russian Pamina Ekaterina Siurina followed in the enormous footsteps of Natalie Dessay, singing beautifully and lyrically, and making the part her own.

And thank you for adding a narrow red belt to her simple white blouse and Alice-blue skirt; now can she and Tamino have more than just underwear for their trials?  

How about bringing back the conquistadoran breastplate from his opening entrance (in the serpent’s mouth), and wrapping her Act II fuschia bed covering around her like a sari?  

And please, please, let Tamino actually play his magic flute (or at least appear to), rather than having it mysteriously and arbitrarily emit its protective song, with or without his participation.

Somebody up there is missing the point - maybe they didn’t read the book? Even without the usual spectacular entrance, Erin Morley gives us the Queen of the Night’s fiery personality along with vocal pyrotechnics; and thank goodness for her spectacular, sparkling Elizabethan gown and jewelry.  

Brava! And welcome both her and diva Siurina – may we enjoy your artistries for many summers to come!

Three Ladies apprentices Rachel Willis-Sorensen, Audrey Walstrom (from Los Alamos) and Renee Tatum cavort and conspire with the best of them, matching their queen sparkle for sparkle.  

The Three (Hare Krishna) Spirits, still bald and orange-draped, are authentically played by Sean Jahner, Trent Llewellyn and Craig Short. While I much appreciated Maestro Renes’ spirited and passionate conducting, he needs to restrain the wonderful orchestra to the softest possible pianissimo to allow these young performers to be heard. The roles of Papageno and Sarastro are repeated by Canadian Joshua Hopkins and Italian Andrea Silvestrelli, with good reason: they are both practically perfect.

Hopkins’ astonishingly beautiful baritone contrasts and complements his considerable comedic talent; while Silvestrelli conveys the soul of fatherly wisdom, compassion, and patience with both presence and a deeply satisfying basso profundo.  

It was refreshing to see him reappear in natural hair and red velvet dressing gown, after the severe black George Washington garb with powdered wig echoed in the drab, colonial chorus.

 So, although not the fantastic spectacle one expects from grand opera, lovers of Mozart and bel canto vocalism will enjoy this “Flute,” while hoping for more bells and whistles in the rest of the season.