Utah Opera Performs The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute is a whimsical opera about love, adventure and enlightenment.  The classic Mozart piece contains one of opera’s most famous arias, which itself includes one of opera’s highest notes.  Utah Opera opened its new production of The Magic Flute last weekend, complete with creativity and comedy.  And, puns aside, Utah Opera hit all the high notes with this one.

Robert Breault (as Tamino) fights a serpent in The Magic Flute.
Robert Breault (as Tamino) fights a serpent in Utah Opera’s dress rehearsal of The Magic Flute.

The Magic Flute is a German opera about a young prince (Tamino) who sets out to save his princess (Pamina) from her captors (Sarastro and Monostatos) and her evil mother (The Queen of the Night) while simultaneously going on a journey for enlightenment, all with his sidekick bird catcher (Papageno) who is desperate to find himself a wife (Papagena).  Prince Tamino and Papageno are given a magic flute and magic bells by three child spirits, who help them on their journey along with the Queen’s servants (known as the Three Ladies).  The complete synopsis of the Magic Flute is here.

Tamino (Breault) and Pamina (Anya Matanovic) are led into Sarastro's chamber (Jeremy Galyon).
Tamino (Breault) and Pamina (Anya Matanovic) are led into Sarastro’s chamber (Jeremy Galyon).

Utah Opera transformed the setting to be a bit more local, placing the story in the middle of a desert.  The set itself is recycled from a previous opera, reusing a large, circular stage with uneven ridges and plenty of crevices.  The set remains the same throughout the production, save for a few minor prop or backdrop additions here and there that keep the setting from growing boring.  Another variation of this production was that the dialogue was spoken in English, rather than German like the songs, allowing the audience to follow the story easier.  (English supertitles are still projected above the stage during the German songs.)

Jennie Lister, Sishel Claverie and Jessica Bowers as the Three Ladies.
Jennie Lister, Sishel Claverie and Jessica Bowers as the Three Ladies.

Utah Opera hit the jackpot with their cast this time.  Tenor Robert Breault had a perfect performance of Tamino but could not outshine soprano Anya Matanovic as Pamina, with her beautifully clear voice.  When the two were on stage together, they sparked like fireworks.  The Queen of the Night was played by Audrey Luna in her Utah Opera debut, who sang the infamous aria with bone-chilling amazement.  But the real star of the show was Grammy-winning artist Daniel Belcher.  His quirky portrayal of the clumsy Papageno was absolutely hilarious.

The Queen of the Night (Audrey Luna) makes her debut on a flying camel.
The Queen of the Night (Audrey Luna) arrives on a flying camel.

After last year’s performance of Rigoletto, I argued that Utah Opera should stick to comedies because they don’t require good singers.  I redacted that statement in my review of Il Trovatore, this year’s opening opera, stating that Utah Opera could be successful with serious performances and that it was the best opera I’d seen in Utah.  Now I will confirm that Utah Opera does an outstanding job with comedies, even comedies that require hard-hitting singers like the Magic Flute, and that this is by far the best opera I have seen in Utah.

The Magic Flute is a great introduction to opera if you’ve never been.  And even if you’re a seasoned fan, it’s a performance worth going to.  The Utah Opera has four more performances of the Magic Flute :: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and a Sunday matinee.  Tickets are available online here.

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