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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 | San Diego Opera’s final production of the 2006 season culminated in an exquisite performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
The production is visually and aurally stunning and the audience follows along on an intriguing journey through the darkest night into a dawn of daylight and love.
The opera opens with the flourishing, symphonic Magic Flute overture and the stage features dark-blue night-sky sets with silvery stars within a frame of glowing gold. Suddenly, a many-footed dragon appears in battle with Tamino, the young hero (Rainer Trost in his San Diego Opera debut.)
As Tamino sings of his despairing fight against the dragon, three ladies (Priti Gandhi, Barbara Divis, Lisa Agazzi) appear and cast a spell to slay the dragon just as Tamino is knocked unconscious. The ladies, enamored of the young man, sing ominously of how their queen will be pleased with him.
As daylight seems to break, the audience is introduced to a bird/man creature with bright feathers and a large beak. He plays his little flute and sings of how he catches birds for the queen. This is Papageno (Paul Armin Edelmann), one of opera’s most whimsical characters. Edelmann’s baritone fits lovely in the role and his abilities as an actor shine as he captures the foolish yet loveable style of the lonely Papageno.
Eventually, the three ladies appear again and beckon to Tamino and Papageno to make a journey to the queen. They give Tamino a picture of Pamina, the queen’s daughter who needs rescue from kidnappers.
The story continues as Tamino and Papageno (unwillingly at times) search for and attempt to rescue the lovely Pamina (soprano Ute Selbig) from within the temple of the mighty Sarastro (Daniel Borowski).
There are significant themes throughout the opera: darkness vs. light, man’s primal needs vs. honor and truth, love and hope vs. pride and envy. Many have studied the Masonic symbols used by Mozart and woven throughout the opera. Therefore, the settings in this opera: the wilderness, the sky, a sanctuary, a subterranean tunnel; can be as extravagant or as minimalist as the designer wishes.
These sets were enough to lure you forward in your seat. The Queen of the Night drops down from the night sky, as do the magical three genies in their glittering sphere. Papageno meets his Papagena (delightful Siphiwe McKenzie) to the glee of all, and they sing of their love in front of a giant tree.
SD Opera shines brightly with the entire production. Zandra Rhodes’ costumes glow with sheer creativity and imagination: at once sparkling and magical, regal and majestic-looking, romantic and flowing. The Queen of the Night’s drapery and gown mesmerized with their fluidity.
“The Magic Flute” features wonderful arias, most notably the harrowing and gasp-inducing coloratura aria sung by the Queen of the Night (Cheryl Evans). Evans hardly batted an eyelash while she performed the difficult piece.
The entire production was extremely well-received by the full-house in attendance Saturday night. SD Opera’s loving tribute to “The Magic Flute” was an enchanting vision that left you wanting more. Just in time to start thinking about the 2007 season.