Opera Pacific recently premiered their third production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 1791 masterpiece The Magic Flute. One of the most renowned stories in opera liturgy, this tale follows the dashing Prince Tamino and his charming bird catcher friend Papageno. They have both been charged by the Queen of the Night with the task of rescuing her beautiful daughter, Pamina, who was taken captive by a high priest named Sarastro. Embarking on a thrilling journey with a magic flute as their only protection, they travel deep into the dark night where they encounter fanciful characters, face personal trials that test their virtue, and conquer the deception of evildoers. Ultimately, their purity and goodness triumph and is rewarded with love.
No microphones appeared to be used due to the strong vocal performances by the entire cast. Chad Shelton has a beautiful tenor voice in the role of Tamino, which has some demanding notes during “Dies Bildnis,” his song about instantly falling in love with princess Pamina. Nicole Cabell makes her Opera Pacific debut with an amazing soprano voice that earned her the 2005 title of BBC Singer of the World. Her dramatic solo “Ach, ich fuhls,” really hits you in the gut as you understand her fear that Tamino might not love her anymore. Luz del Alba Rubio reprises her role as the Queen of the Night, gracefully nailing every demanding high note with effortless precision. Rod Gilfry is the local Southern California turned international star that sings the pivotal baritone role of Papageno, whose magical bells solo about his desire for a wife was my favorite of the evening.
If the pitch-perfect singing of Mozart’s music wasn’t enough draw in itself, then come to see the colorful costumes created by renowned British textile designer Zandra Rhodes, whose past clients have included Sir Elton John and Princess Diana. Every character wore a completely unique and imaginative outfit. The Three Ladies look like a sinister version of the medieval fairies from “Sleeping Beauty” wearing dark red, green, and blue, respectively. The Queen of the Night shines like a dark blue star. The high priest Sarastro is a walking sun. Papageno is covered in shades of blue and green feathers. My favorite costume was worn by Sarastro’s servant Monostatos, a frightening blue creature with a funny wobble walk.
This fanciful production made great use of theatrical machinery like trap doors, the Gennii flying through the air, and sets moving in and out from all stage directions. A large projection screen flashing images of a starry night, sunrise morning, and dangerous elements of fire and water added a 21st century technological element to Mozart’s opera.
The Magic Flute is a great introduction for anyone to the opera. The fantasy elements and easily identifiable good vs. evil costumes should make it especially easy for children to follow, and there were many children at our opening night performance. It is also a story full of both comedy and drama. The Three Ladies who save prince Tamino from a serpent sing a comical song where they fight over who should be allowed the pleasure of staying to protect him. Papageno’s inability to keep quiet during the trials and a scene in which he and Monostatos frighten each other is funny. Dramatic moments include both Pamina’s and Papageno’s suicidal thoughts when they think they won’t be with the one they love. In the end though, this is a happy-ending opera.
The story is told in the form of a Singspiel, a popular form that included both singing and spoken dialogue. In our case, since this production is being performed in its original German language, we were required to read projected translations atop the stage. Both seasonal and first-time opera patrons will agree that this grand production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute was “wunderbar,” translated, “wonderful.”