The Magic Flute Review – Pure Delight

Those who made their way to the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s opening night performance of “The Magic Flute” braved the elements, an early winter snowstorm.  Some may have wondered if the effort of getting to the Civic Opera House could possibly be rewarded.  Let me assure you, that for anyone who attended this brilliant performance, it was well worth that effort.

 

The House with all the people, Photo: Andrew Cioffi

“The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder and Carl Ludwig Giescecke is a “Singspiel” (speech and singing) in two acts first performed in Vienna, September 30, 1791. Lyric’s current production is outstanding - and fun. “The Magic Flute”, presented as a play within a play took on an aspect of a fairy tale, making the story more accessible to children and adults.  Even the program doesn’t look like a typical Lyric Opera program, and has laughing children on the cover. 

 

At this time of year, facing short, gray, days and long, dark, cold nights, the triumph of light, love and “goodness” is comforting and inspiring. In this operatic fairytale, there are many words and ideas that would surely make a kinder world if there were reality to them.

 

Prince Tamino and Pamina, Andrew Staples, Christiane Karg. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

 

We watch as Prince Tamino strives for the hand of Pamina, accompanied by his lovable sidekick Papageno, who never obeys the rules.  The evil Queen of the Night is reminiscent of a character in Snow White though her demise is like that of Dorothy’s wicked witch. The Queen of the Night’s stratospheric high notes and show-stopping arias blend easily into the story and are a joy. The virtuous high priest Sarastro deep bass arias are attention getters.

  

Birdman, Papageno, Adam Plachetka. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

The story follows: Princess Pamina (soprano Christiane Karg), daughter of the Queen of the Night (soprano Kathryn Lewek/Lyric debut), has been captured by the high priest Sarastro (bass Christof Fischesser/Lyric debut). Prince Tamino (tenors Andrew Staples/Lyric debut, 12/10-1/8; Matthew Polenzani, 1/12-1/27) falls in love with a portrait of Pamina he receives from the queen’s three ladies (soprano Ann Toomey, mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen, contralto Lauren Decker). The queen tells Tamino that if he finds Pamina, she will be his. Papageno (bass-baritone Adam Plachetka), the queen's birdcatcher, joins him on the quest. Aided by Tamino’s magic flute and Papageno’s magic bells, they face numerous challenges separately and together, including an encounter with the comically savage Monostatos (tenor Rodell Rosel), who lusts after Pamina. Three genies (trebles Casey Lyons, Parker Scribner, Asher Alcantara/Lyric debuts) are their guides. Eventually the Queen of the Night is vanquished, Tamino and Pamina are united, and Papageno finds love with Papagena (soprano Diana Newman) as the queen's forces of evil yield to the forces of good.

  

Andrew Staples, Annie Rosen, Lauren Decker, Ann Toomey Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Rory Macdonald conducts the new production directed by Neil Armfield. Sets and costumes are designed by Dale Ferguson with lighting design by Damien Cooper. Michael Black is chorus master and Denni Sayers is choreographer.

 

  

The Wicked Queen, Kathryn Lewek, Photo Andrew Cioffi

The voices were perfection.  I loved the set.  With the homey feel of a house, its back yard, the friendly neighbors, the children and the dogs, it set a relaxed tone for the audience, into which the amazingly beautiful music fit comfortably and beautifully.

 

Everything about the staging was captivating. The circular movement of the house allowed it to be a house, row houses, and a temple.  The action inside the house drew the audience members into the scene.  The lighting and special effects were perfect, as was the costuming.

  

Priests, Photo: Andrew Cioffi

On other item that caught my attention was in the program.  It was a section that suggested questions for discussion with friends following the performance. An example, “Lyric’s new production of The Magic Flute celebrates the power of childhood make-believe.  What memories did this production evoke for you?  What elements of the design, music or staging ignited your imagination?”  Come see this magnificent and magical production and you, too, will have an answer for this and other questions.

  

Three Genii, Asher Alcantara, Parker Scribner, Casey Lyons, Photo:Todd Rosenberg

 Lyric Opera Information

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