johnpierce.us / Opera

Die Zauberfloete
The Magic Flute

 


Chagall Mozart Die Zauberflote
Chagall Mozart Die Zauberflote
Chagall, Marc
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Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder.

A plot synopsis can be found at http://www.johnrpierce.com/zauberpsone.html

A libretto, in German, of Die Zauberfoete can be found at http://www.spiritsound.com/zauber.html

A libretto in German, with an English translation can be found at http://www.aria-database.com/translations/magic_flute.txt

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Comments on a performance by Boston Lyric Opera on October 6, 2013

I saw Mozart’s The Magic Flute performed in English by Boston Lyric Opera at the Shubert Theatre in Boston on the afternoon of Sunday October 6, 2013. The translation was a new one by Kelley Rourke. The “New English Adaptation” is credited to Kelley Rourke, Leon Major, and John Conklin in the program booklet. The translation was a little too clever at time and elicited some chuckles that seemed out of place when they occurred. Four young Americans are exploring Mayan country. One receives a snake bite and hallucinates the opera. The young Americans are Tamino, Pamina, Monostatos, and Papageno in the opera. They remain dressed in their ordinary clothing throughout the opera. The other characters were somewhat fanciful costumes, only very slightly, if at all, inspired by the Mayans. The sets, which are slight but not bad, are also only very slightly inspired by Mayan art. The premise is not a bad one, but it was annoying that some dialogue took place during a break in the overture.

On the whole the singing was adequate. Zach Borichevsky as Tamino and Deborah Selig as Pamina provided little drama or emotion. The Tamino in particular seemed smug and made little connection with other characters or the audience. Andrew Garland as Papageno had a pleasant but relatively slight voice, but was good with the dialogue and physical acting. Neal Ferreira, as Monostatos, was also good as an actor. David Cushing as Sarastro made the most impression vocally. So Young Park was not especially interesting as Queen of the Night but her singing was adequate and got a good response from the audience. The three Ladies of the Night were adequate but made less comic impression than is usual with this opera, perhaps in part because the dialogue was shorter.

I noticed that repeats of at least some arias were missing, most notably that of the bird catcher’s song. Skipping the repeats made the show shorter but less interesting.

The chorus was off stage somewhere, never visible. Not seeing them weakened the story and the visual interest. I suppose the opera company saved some money on costumes.

I would give the performance two stars and out of five, and would say that it is not worth seeing.

Review of a performance by Boston Lyric Opera on April 2, 2000

DIE ZAUBERFLOETE. Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. Sung in German, with English surtitles. Performed by the Boston Lyric Opera at the Shurbert Theatre, Boston. Production by The Royal Danish Opera. Conductor: Stephen Lord. Stage Director, and Set and Costume Designer: Mikael Melbye. Lighting Designer: Jesper Kongshaug. Partial listing of cast: Marcel Reijans (Tamino), Colleen Kramer (First Lady), Jossie Perez (Second Lady), Kristina Martin (Third Lady), Earle Patriarco (Papageno), Elizabeth Carter (The Queen of the Night), Frank Kelley (Monostatos), Mary Dunleavy (Pamina), Sanford Sylvan (The Speaker), Arthur Woodley (Sarastro), Eric Fennell (Second Priest/First Man in Armor), Eric Jordan (First Priest), Alison Trainer (Papagena), and Steven Humes (Second Man in Armor).

I attended a performance of Die Zauberfloete by the Boston Lyric Opera on the afternoon of Sunday April 2, 2000.

The most striking feature of the performance was the sets, by far the best designed sets for the Magic Flute that I have ever seen, and also the best sets ever used so far by the Boston Lyric Opera. The sets were relatively simple, with bright blue walls. In the scenes outside the temple, there were doors to Egyptian temples, with Greek names (e.g., "sophia" for "wisdom") above the doors. In the scene in which Pamina first appears, there are very tall yellow artificial flowers around an Egyptian couch. Most of the characters wore costumes more or less ancient Egyptian. Exceptions were Tamino in an unbecoming Japanese costume, and the Queen of the Night and her three Ladies, who wore eighteenth-century style European gowns with unusual headgear, the Quen a pointed hat, and the ladies headdresses suggestive of ancient Egypt. Papageno wore green leather trousers and a sleeveless top of large mostly green feathers and a matching feathered headdress. Papagena covered herself in something resembling a large chenille rug until she revealed herself to be a young woman wearing a feathered dress matching Papageno's top and headdress. The dragon was large and well designed. Instead of the often seen cute animal costumes, for the animals there were male dancers in skin-tight blue outfits with large animal heads.

The opera was performed entirely in German. The predominantly American cast was on the whole not up to the task of delivering spoken lines in German.

Papageno seemed to have the most dialogue, and Earle Patriarco's delivery of it was especially bad. He seems to think, incorrectly unfortunately, that the secret to seeming able to speak German is to speak it very quickly with the words run together. He tried very hard to be zany, but often fell somewhat short of the goal. His attempt at humor included slightly effeminate gestures (lots of short, quick steps, for example) and speech, reminiscent of characters providing comic relief in movies and situation comedies. His singing voice was good, but did not quite make the impression that other baritones in the role often succeed in making. Perhaps his apparent lack of German-language skills and his ditzy persona were part of the problem.

The Queen of the Night, Elizabeth Carter, seemed somewhat nervous in her first-act aria, perhaps because she was raised from the floor so as to appear to be more than twelve feet tall. In the second act, however, she revealed herself to be the most dramatically interesting member of the cast, and her revenge aria, with good coloratura, was the most impressive singing of the performance.

The Queen's daughter, Pamina, was sung by Mary Dunleavy. whose voice was quite pleasant, but whose dramatic characterization was quite bland and unconvincing. Her spoken German could use some work.

Marcel Reijans, the Dutch tenor singing Tamino, was more than adequate but failed to be very interesting as a singer or a character.

Arthur Woodley was suitably sonorous as Sarastro.

Sanford Sylvan was very good in the relatively small role of the Speaker. His voice is very pleasant, and both his spoken and sung German were quite clear. Alone among the cast, he succeeded in giving the impression that he actually knows how to speak German. Familiar with his skill with lieder, I would have very much liked to hear him sing the role of Papageno.

Both Frank Kelley as Monostatos and Alison Trainer as Papagena were up to the demands of their roles, and gave solid, interesting performances. The comic contributions of the Three Ladies were much appreciated by the audience. The boys singing the three spirits made a good effort.

The orchestra played well and was competently conducted by Stephen Lord. I hope to see more performances of such quality from the Boston Lyric Opera.

 

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Review of a performance by New York City Opera in September 1999

THE MAGIC FLUTE. Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. English translation by Andrew Porter. Partial listing of cast: William Burden (Tamino), Laura Knoop Very (First Lady), Leah Creek (Second Lady), Leah Summers (Third Lady), Mel Ulrich (Papageno), Jami Rogers (Queen of the Night), Jonathan Green (Monostatos), Elisabeth Comeaux (Pamina), Julian Patrick (Speaker), Gustav Andreassen (Sarastro), John Lankston (First Priest), William Ledbetter (Second Priest), and Jennifer Aylmer (Papagena). Conducted by Steuart Bedford. Production by Lofti Mansouri. Stage dirctor Albert Sherman. Set and costume designer Thierry Bosquet. Lighting designer Jeff Harris.

I attended Mozart's "The Magic Flute" at the New York City Opera on the evening of Saturday, September 25, 1999.

The opera was performed in a production dating from 1987. I would describe it as a pleasant, traditional production. It makes more reference, however, to the costumes and architecture of eighteenth-century Europe than to those of ancient Egypt.

From my seat B 107 in the second row near the center of the Third Tier, the "enhanced" sound emanating from the system newly installed this season was not bad at all. The orchestra sometimes seemed a little bit too loud. Still, I would prefer that there be no such system.

The performance used an English translation by Andrew Porter, performed without surtitles.

William Burden, an attractive young tenor who sang Tamino, was the outstanding singer in the cast. His enunciation of the text was extremely clear. I believe that I understood every word that he sang.

Baritone Mel Ulrich was quite good as Papageno. He slightly recalled Harpo Marx in appearance.

Jami Rogers as Queen of the Night delivered her coloratura arias quite effectively. She was especially well received by the audience.

Elisabeth Comeaux was good as Pamina, but her sound was occasionally a little bit matronly for the role.

The Three Ladies' enunciation was quite unclear. I think I could understand approximately ten percent of the words that they sang.

Steuart Bedford conducted quite well. On the whole, the performance was a pleasant one.
 

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