In my workplace, I always like to play to my strengths, because I produce better work when I know I’m passionate about it. And even if it’s the same task I’m executing, each version has its own interpretation and what I’ve learned from the first time around only makes the next round even better. The same holds true for Opera Atelier’s productions of The Magic Flute. The passion of the entire company oozes from the stage to the pit to the rafters, and their fourth production in 22 years of The Magic Flute certainly benefits.
I am actually much more familiar with tragic operas, so it is quite refreshing and sometimes even surprising to see a comedic opera. The Magic Flute is a perfect show for newcomers to opera and seasoned veterans alike. The blend of spoken word and song, with the benefit of this production in English, makes this show more accessible to a new audience of operagoers. As well, the Mozart name can also earn some street cred. To be clear, I don’t consider myself a seasoned opera vet, but certainly an appreciator.
The story revolves around Tamino who goes in search of Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night who is being held by Sarastro. Tamino is joined by Papageno along with a few spirits who guide them to finding Pamina.
A successful show is a blend of the individual elements: performers, orchestra, costumes, lighting and set, for which were all spot on for this production. However, it is also so much more than a individual parts; it is the successful marriage of these elements to bring out the absolute best in show.
The Magic Flute relies heavily on its an ensemble cast, however this show completely belonged to the ladies. Opera Atelier has an exquisite talent for featuring female voices at their absolute finest. In her debut with Opera Atelier, Laura Albino brings a real emotive struggle to Pamina, whose role could have been downplayed to passive heroine as she waits for her love and how to return to her mother. In Albino’s hands Pamina is a sympathetic character.
Not needing any sympathy, Ambur Braid commands the role of The Queen of the Night. I have been a fan of Braid’s since seeing her in Die Fledermaus and remarked that in the first act she remains still–my favourite part of her performance is her physicality. The second act would not disappoint as it includes the well-known aria “Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart” which Braid completely blew away. Have a listen and you’ll be familiar with it.
I have a strong suspicion that Colin Ainsworth in the male heroic lead Tamino, reprising a role he held in 2006, is actually aging backwards in some kind of Benjamin Button style. I barely recognized him in the role, but though I liked his performance, it seemed like the show was happening around Tamino and the character was always a step behind the action. Olivier LaQuerre as Papageno was a strong second to Tamino and brought joy to the stage and the role each time was in front of the audience.
As previously mentioned, the sums of the other parts need to match up to the calibre of the voices and they surely do not disappoint. Sometimes I find that Opera Atelier pushes their sets a touch too far that they sometimes overshadow the action on stage. I highly enjoyed the sets for this production, though by no means simple; I found that the staging (and tongue and cheek animals, especially the dragon in the beginning) really allowed for the impeccable costumes to really shine. The costumes had such an eye to detail down to the matching colours and patterns of Tamino and Pamina’s outfits and the rich colours of the chorus.
The only thing I missed was the amount of dancing in this show. I love the baroque dancing in Opera Atelier productions and even though the story didn’t quite allow for it, I just felt there wasn’t enough dancing! As always, Opera Atelier’s The Magic Flute is on for a very limited run, and if you’ve been curious about opera, about Mozart or about having a great evening of theatre find yourself at one of the four remaining shows. For tickets please visit Ticketmaster. If you are between 15-30, use the code OPERATIX for $20 tickets.