The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder.
Directed by Ashlie Corcoran. Conducted by Bernard Labadie. Canadian Opera Company.
Originally created for the masses, The Magic Flute makes for a great piece to introduce the younger generations to the magical world of opera
Like Mozart’s earlier Abduction from the Seraglio, The Magic Flute is not technically an opera, it’s a singspiel (early operetta, musical comedy), a form involving singing and spoken dialogue—created for the layman—it was theatre for all people. With comedy, fairytale and mythical elements, The Canadian Opera Company’s opener for 2017 isn’t stunning, but remains a delight.
Magic Flute is both sublime and ridiculous. The piece has ties to the Freemason movement of which Mozart and Schikaneder were members. The production presents the ideals of enlightenment versus the vaudeville antics of the playful Papageno and Papagena.
Tenor Andrew Haji is a capable Tamino. As he wanders through a strange land Tamino begins the piece without a definite purpose, but by the end you see his quest for enlightenment and his growth as a character. A tenor staple, the aria Dies Bildnis, was sung convincingly by Haji, and his performance only got stronger throughout the night.
Soprano Ambur Braid, is a perfect Queen of the Night and although technically a villain, the character has some of the most beautiful music in the world of opera. Her costume by designer Myung Hee Cho is reminiscent of The Evil Queen from the television show Once Upon a Time. Think floor-length full leather skirt, bustier and a gorgeous—if not ostentatious—plumed crown. Braid’s clear, clean and precise treatment of O Zittre Nicht and Der Hölle Rache were excellently executed.
In her COC debut, Russian soprano Elena Tsallagova started off as a shaky Tamina, but by the second act, found her voice and it was beautiful. Papageno (Joshua Hopkins) and Papagena (Jacqueline Woodley) the entertaining vaudevillian characters of the piece offer well-placed comic-relief.
In another COC debut, conductor Bernard Labadie proved himself an expert of the 17th century repertoire, leading the orchestra to a delightfully sublime reading of Mozart’s work.
With the current political climate and women marching en masse against the 45th President of the United States, Magic Flute is also a timely piece. The Order of Sarastro (even for 1791) express antiquated ideas of women. Sarastro (Goran Jurić), the head of the brotherhood (akin to the Freemasons) is at first very dismissive of women and their place within the world.
We go on the journey with the characters of The Magic Flute and by the end of the piece we feel that we have learned along with them.
The Magic Flute is on stage now through Feb. 24. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: coc.ca