The Magic Flute

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Reviews -

I ap­plauded Santa Fe Opera’s stag­ing of Mozart’s The Magic Flute when it was new in 2006 and liked it even more in this re­vival, thanks to con­sis­tently strong cast­ing and di­rec­tion that sup­ports and even en­riches this mas­ter­work. Di­rec­tor Tim Al­bery re­spects the work for what it is, and he clar­i­fies the po­ten­tially com­pli­cated sub­tleties of the char­ac­ters’ re­la­tion­ships through sim­pli­fy­ing touches.

The ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign of the over­rid­ing set — a curved wall on the left (the do­main of the Queen of the Night), a straight one on the right (the court of Saras­tro) — pro­vides a clean, at­trac­tive space while of­fer­ing a hint about where rec­ti­tude lies in this opera’s uni­verse. Cos­tumes (which, like the sets, are the work of Tobias Ho­heisel) rep­re­sent a cu­ri­ous mix of opera-ruf­fle tra­di­tion (the Queen and her min­ions), En­light­en­ment-era pro­pri­ety (Saras­tro’s fol­low­ers), girl-nextdoor in­no­cence (Pam­ina), knight-in-shin­ing-armor valor (Tamino), fascis­tic evil (Monos­tatos), and car­toon loop­i­ness (Tamino’s not-so­help­ful aide Pa­pageno, in a T-shirt, clam-dig­gers, and base­ball cap).

Lawrence Renes led a finely paced, au­thor­i­ta­tive per­for­mance. Two of the prin­ci­pal singers were fa­mil­iar from the 2006 per­for­mances. Bari­tone Joshua Hopkins was a de­light as af­fa­ble Pa­pageno, his voice full-toned, well cen­tered, and nim­ble. An­drea Sil­vestrelli han­dled the role of Saras­tro adeptly. His deep voice is at­trac­tive but un­usual, its warm, buzzy qual­ity evok­ing that of a bowed dou­ble bass. I wish he had taken his cav­ernous aria “In diesen heil’gen Hallen” a shade slower; I would have hap­pily lin­gered longer over this hu­man­is­tic credo.

The rest of the cast is new this year. So­prano Eka­te­rina Si­u­rina (Pam­ina) and tenor Charles Cas­tronovo (Tamino) both proved to be high-qual­ity Mozart singers. Cas­tronovo’s pre­cisely etched, gold­en­toned phrases in­fused grace­ful­ness with a heroic glint. Si­u­rina may have cul­ti­vated a lighter than usual voice for this oc­ca­sion, to charm­ing and girl­ish ef­fect. As a cou­ple, they did in­deed seem sprung from the pages of a fairy tale, and their re­spec­tive high-point arias — “Dies Bild­nis” for Tamino, “Ach, ich fühl’s” for Pam­ina — con­veyed sin­cer­ity through care­fully honed artistry.

So­prano Erin Morley scored a suc­cess as the Queen of the Night, sing­ing with col­oratura pre­ci­sion and mu­si­cal­ity, even if her high Fs took her to the very limit of her up­per range; she even in­ter­po­lated a bit of adept or­na­men­ta­tion. Many Magic Flute pro­duc­tions fail to in­vest much sense of re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Queen and Pam­ina. Not so this one, in which their in­ter­ac­tions bris­tle with mother-daugh­ter dy­nam­ics. Tenor Ti­mothy Oliver hewed to the long-stand­ing tra­di­tion of ren­der­ing the evil Monos­tatos’ mu­sic by bark­ing and snarling. The Queen’s Three Ladies (Rachel Wil­lis-Sørensen, Au­drey Walstrom, and Renée Ta­tum) were en­tirely praise­wor­thy, as were the airy-voiced Three Spir­its (Sean Jah­ner, Trent Llewellyn, and Craig Short, dressed like baby Bud­dhist monks), and bari­tone Dale Travis was forth­right as the Speaker.

All the sing­ing is in Ger­man, but the con­nect­ing spo­ken por­tions are de­liv­ered in English con­den­sa­tions pre­pared by Al­bery, the di­rec­tor. We also have him to thank for an un­ortho­dox touch in the stag­ing of the fi­nale: Saras­tro, the bea­con of truth and virtue, grants for­give­ness to the Queen and rec­on­ciles her to Pam­ina, thereby in­ten­si­fy­ing this opera’s les­son about hu­man good­ness.

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