The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas April 20, 22, 25, 28, May 4, 6, 2012
Review by Dean M. Cassella, Ph.D.
The Dallas Opera closes this season with a real gem. Mozart’s last foray into musical theater, which premiered barely two months before he died, is always a crowd pleaser, and this production delivers on all fronts.
In some respects, the playbill could be billed as “home-grown,” singing wise. The prima donna, Ava Pine, hails from Galveston, and has been a regular singer for TDO and FW Opera for several years running. Lead tenor Shawn Mathey is from Bowling Green, OH. In the role of Pamina, the kidnapped daughter of the Queen of the Night (in this production strangely called the “Starblazing Queen”), Pine has really come into her own as one of the leading voices on the stages of North Texas and, no doubt, wherever else she sings. Her voice is a commanding presence, and she is perfectly cast here. Mathey as Tamino, the love-struck prince who is enjoined by the Queen to rescue her daughter from the allegedly evil new-age high priest, Sarastro, combines a dashing stage persona with a sweet, resonant voice that is the hallmark of a lyric tenor.
The role of Papageno, the buffoonish, down-to-earth bird catcher of the Queen, requires its performer to ham it up, big time. New Jersey Baritone Patrick Carfizzi proves fully capable of acting the role, while simultaneously giving an excellent vocal performance throughout.
The two arias for the Queen of the Night are among the most difficult of the coloratura soprano repertoire. Beautiful Slovene soprano L’ubica Vargicova is clearly quite adept in the role, although she does take that split-second pause before hitting the highest note in the Queen’s trademark vocal runs. No matter: both arias will bring delight to your ears and heart!
Basso Raymond Aceto appears regularly in TDO productions. Here, he does an outstanding job as Sarastro, a priest of the Enlightenment, who sets Tamino and Papageno off on an initiation ritual that ultimately leads to marriage for both.
One of the most beloved scenes in The Magic Flute is the duet between Papageno and his bride, Papagena. In the latter role, soprano Angela Mannino sings decently enough. But she, in this production at least, does not really inject much life into the character. Cast up against Carfizzi, this is modestly disappointing.
The sets, designed by the late Jörg Zimmerman, are among the most beautiful I have seen. They have an almost Disneyesque feel, and remind me of the Metropolitan Opera’s recently retired first set of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, designed by Günther Schneider-Siemssen. As with many productions, the sets pay homage to the surviving drawings of the originals.
Overall, you cannot do wrong in going to see this production. The music is delightful, the performers are top-notch, and the stage production is exquisite. You will walk out of the theater with a smile on your face!
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