Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Opera Review: Musicians Star in the Magic Flute by Timothy Gaylard

Below is a review of Opera Roanoke's October 21st performance of The Magic Flute,
presented by Washington and Lee University.

Musicians star in The Magic Flute by Timothy Gaylard

Opera Roanoke brought a welcome performance of Mozart's beloved The Magic Flute to Lexington last night. The almost sold-out house responded positively to an evening of entertaining theatrical and musical delights. In the overture, the orchestra, comprised of select members of the Roanoke Symphony, demonstrated a cohesive and tight ensemble under the deft direction of Scott Williamson. In particular, the wind section impressed with playing of virtuosic bravura and expressive color. For the rest of the evening, Maestro Williamson and his players provided magnificent support to the vocal cast.

The opera itself featured very talented singers, some of whom were performing their roles for the very first time. At the core of the comedy in this work is the character Papageno, here played by the young baritone Joseph Lim. Not only did he sing beautifully but he endeared himself to the audience with his wit, defiance and petulance. As a serious foil, the role of Tamino was expertly sung by Michael Gallant, whose tenor voice easily negotiated the taxing high tessitura of the part. In the part of his beloved Pamina, soprano Shelly Milam acted with effective pathos and strength and sang with lyrical sweetness. Lindsey Russell, as the Queen of the Night, gamely donned a male costume, but sang with the appropriate force and range, including the famous high Fs, dispatching them with pin-point accuracy. Bass Matthew Curran played the wise Sarastro intelligently, letting his noble humanity shine through and singing the low notes of the role with distinction.

In smaller roles, there were some especial standouts. The Three Ladies, sung by Chelsea Bonagura, Stacy Dove, and Leah Melfi, blended well and vied comically with each other over Tamino in the first scene. Tenor Adam McAllister was suitably scary and menacing in the unsavory part of Monostatos. Andrew Ellis and Andrew Otter were particularly impressive as the Armored Men, intoning powerfully the choral tune in the finale. Keith Reed's baritone was sonorous and weighty in the crucial part of the "Speaker" who leads Tamino on the right path to enlightenment. Anna Sterrett, was amusingly coy as the disguised Papagena and then transformed herself into an energetic and playful Pocahontas look-alike; the "Pa-pa-pa" duet with Papageno revealed a bright and agile soprano voice.

The audience was also treated to the visual delights of animals, birds, a butterfly, and an attractive temple facade, indicating in part at least the historical location of Williamsburg, instead of the traditional setting of ancient Egypt. Members of the chorus did well in convincing us of their American heritage and they sang with a full and effective sound. When the curtain came down, the audience gave the performers a well-deserved standing ovation.

Timothy Gaylard is Professor of Music at Washington and Lee University.

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