South Florida Classical Review » » Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ delights young and old in artful staging by MBMCF
The combination of comedy, fantasy and moral elevation makes The magic flute a perfect introduction to opera for newcomers to the art form.
Large audiences of children and adults were in attendance Sunday afternoon at Temple Emanu-El for the Miami Beach Classical Music Festival’s presentation of Mozart’s farewell operatic masterpiece. Judging by the continued laughter and extended applause after the tunes and sets (as well as the loud ovation at the end), the many newbies in the crowd clearly enjoyed the experience.
With dialogue spoken in English and musical numbers in German, the libretto was stripped of its dated elements. Except for a few minor adjustments, Mozart’s score was presented almost complete.
Although this was clearly a student-level performance, the singing still proved to be solid with three of the exceptionally gifted leads.
As Tamino, Minghao Liu projected a noble lyrical tenor who could reach heroic heights. His princely demeanor and sense of fear as he initially fled from the pursuing serpent was the perfect embodiment of this musical fairy tale.
Liu’s duets with Anna Donnelly’s Pamina were beautifully balanced and coordinated, their timbres perfectly matched. Donnelly conveyed grief and grief in “Ach, ich fühl’s” as the heroine believes her beloved has abandoned her. The soprano’s radiant middle register and exquisite pianissimos demonstrated vocal control and musicality of the highest order.
Eliza Masewicz was a tall, statuesque, haughty and frightening queen of the night. Masewicz’s nimble coloratura matched the fury of his declamation, the high notes clear and echoing through the house.
As the Papageno bird catcher, Andrew Backer’s voice was rather lighthearted, but he was a born comedian who assaulted every scene to the delight of the audience. Dueting Donnelly and Arya Balian’s brilliant Papagena, Backer mixed in winning fashion.
Bai Chen had the sweet tone and deep bass notes of Sarastro. He captured the majestic line of ‘In diesen heil’gen Hallen, one of Mozart’s most inspired melodies. With more seasoning and experience, this young bass could have an important career. Scott Wichael’s nimble tenor and comic book villainy showed Monostatos’ intrigues with the Queen and her retinue and his vain attempts to force Pamina to respond to his advances.
Despite wearing a mask, Joe Chappel’s molten bass-baritone lent weight and gravity to the president’s harsh statements (he doubled as a priest who matched Backer for comedic flair in their exchanges) . Lizzy Stant, Rebecca Sacks and Daniei Znoo were the three well-matched ladies with great vocal power for the ensembles. Balian, Stant and Kyra Leetz happily sang the lines of the three spirits (with Diana Bodie and Kate Doucette their mimic and dancing twins). Hunter Enoch and William McCullough loudly declaimed the armed guards’ warnings.
In what may have set a world record for a single opera performance, no less than nine student conductors shared the podium duties. Jordan Brooks, Chuanhong Dong, Po Hsuan Huang, Morgan Hunkele, Julan Lamarti, Tianyi Lu, Apostolo Nikoul, Hannah Schendel and Saly Yu took turns conducting parts of both acts of the opera. They all acquitted themselves capably, and despite the differing styles and personalities on the podium, the performance came out remarkably consistent.
The student orchestra played well and elegantly apart from a few brief problems. When Mark Gibson, head of the festival’s conducting program, took to the podium for the Act II aria of Queen of the Night, the intensity and precision of the ensemble’s playing was exponentially improved. Yet this event was clearly an important learning experience for young conductors. In the Sarastro temple scenes, the small choir sang with a weight and sonority beyond its small size.
The historic temple sanctuary proved a fitting location for Mozart’s hymn to Freemasonry. Although stage space is limited in this venue, director Marc Callahan’s clever production made it a virtue by using the venue’s walkways and entrances as part of the play area. , Liu and Backer started talking in the native German before saying, “We’re supposed to do English,” which elicited a great roar of laughter.
The dancing animals that pranced through the aisles to the sound of Tamino’s flute delighted children and parents alike. Callahan and Paulina Lozano’s costumes added swirls of color to the fast-paced staging.
The Miami Music Festival presents Wagner Das Rheingold 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Temple House, 1415 Euclid Avenue in Miami Beach. The performance is free. miamimusicfestival.com
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