by Melissa Bridges
I’m ashamed to admit that I have never seen a full production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s last opera, The Magic Flute. Pretty sad considering its popularity and my love of the music.
So, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to catch The Canadian Opera Company’s newest production of the beloved opera now playing at The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts until February 25th. Admittedly, I had very high expectations for the production and for the most part, I was not disappointed.
The Magic Flute follows the adventures of Prince Tamino as he undergoes various ordeals and trials in order to win the hand of the beautiful Pamina. This is a two act Singspiel opera, meaning the musical numbers are strung together by spoken dialogue, and is performed entirely in German.
This is an opera for everyone; there are dragons, demons, a handsome prince, a damsel in distress and a wicked witch. However, there is a lot more to it than that. Mozart, and his librettist Emanual Schikaneder, were members of the Masonic order and the opera contains many Masonic symbols and enlightenment philosophies.
American director and Tony Award nominee Diane Paulus has taken a unique approach to staging the opera. She set the entire first act on a small proscenium stage in the garden of an aristocratic household, turning the opera into a play-within-a-play. According to the program notes, the reason for the performance is to celebrate the name day of the opera’s heroine, Pamina. Although a brilliant concept, it was slightly confusing. Prior to the start of the opera I had not read the director’s notes, so I had no idea what the performance of the opera was in celebration of and what the relationships between the characters were. It would have been nice if that could have been more clearly portrayed on stage.
During the second act, the main action moves off the impromptu stage into a vast, dark garden filled with tall ever-changing hedges, brilliantly designed by Myung Hee Cho (who also did a fantastic job designing the costumes). It is here that the characters undergo various tests as they search for truth and strive to overcome evil forces.
By far, my favourite performance was that of Russian baritone Rodion Pogossov as the hilarious bird catcher Papageno, who wants nothing more than a loving wife. His comedic performance was well acted and he sung the role beautifully. I also really enjoyed Canadian coloratura Aline Kutan’s Queen of the Night. She hit every note in her two difficult arias (her high F’s were killer) and was appropriately haughty.
The two romantic leads were well sung by tenor Michael Schade and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, although I felt both of their performances lacked passion in the dramatic moments of the opera.
All in all, this production of The Magic Flute is great fun for audiences of all ages.
– The Magic Flute is playing at The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West) until February 25, 2011
– Shows times are on specific dates (details available here) and are generally at 7:30PM, except matinees at 2:00PM
– Ticket prices range from $35.03 – $214.70, and rush tickets available at $12 every night at 11:00AM the day of
– Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-363-8231
Photo of Lisa DiMaria and Rodion Pogossov by Michael Cooper