Magic Flute Review for The Newspaper

The following was published in the newspaper in February 2011

Music is a great de-stresser, especially when it comes to the kind of stress involving all-nighters and essays. So, if you’re worried about mid-terms, sit back, relax and watch the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Mozart’s beloved classic, The Magic Flute.

Split into two acts, the production takes the audience by the hand in this take on the classical theme of overcoming challenges in the pursuit of true love.

The first act opens with the main play taking place on a stage set within the stage set as the “actors” perform for assembled guests. The play quickly moves from the small set and the assembled guests become actors themselves. It’s rather confusing to understand at certain points, unless you’re familiar with The Magic Flute story, yet this confusion intrigues the viewer drawing them further into the story.

We follow Prince Tamino, played by Canadian tenor Michael Schade, as he courageously sets to rescuing his love Pamina, played by Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, the classic damsel in distress. Funnily enough, Pamina’s pink dress makes the video gamer in this critic draw comparisons to Princess Peach Toadstool from the Nintendo Mario series of video games.

It’s with the entry of this story’s “Luigi” Papageno that the show really takes off. The natural comic relief, and superior embodiment of this role by Pogossov, sets the light-hearted fun, steady paced tone of the production, partnered with the show-capturing performance of Russian baritone Rodion Pogossov as comic bird catcher Papageno.

The Queen of the Night, performed by Canadian soprano Aline Kutan, sends the prince and Papageno on a quest to save the princess from the evil clutches of her abductor Sarastro, performed by Russian bass Mikhail Petrenko.

In Act II, we discover all is not what it seems. Good vs Evil flips and our heroines must navigate a a masterfully staged labyrinth to save the princess. Along the way, the crowd favourite Papageno finds his true love; the lovely Papagena. The role of Papagena is played by Canadian soprano Lisa DiMaria.

With stunning musical performances by the Canadians on stage, the COC performances displays the best in our nation’s opera talent. The iconic coloratura aria performance in the second act by Kutan granted her the loudest applause at the end of the show. Kutan’s strong voice projection in her role as Queen of the Night solidifies her has the evil antagonist of the play.

Papageno’s acting truly captures the show, from his jumps of happiness to his inquisitive gestures when providing comic relief lines. The orchestra’s perfect coordination with this character perfects the performance. When Papageno moves the Magic Flute along his lips, the keyboardist in the Orchestra pit - who cannot directly see the on stage performance - strikes her keys in perfect coordination. Credit for this feat must go to COC Orchestra under direction of Johannes Debus.

You’ve seen the sidekick done in the movies, you’ll feel it done at the Opera House.

Along with amazing cast wardrobes, stellar supporting roles, and the stunning costumes created by Myung Hee Cho for the forest animals in the show, The Magic Flute offers something for everyone.

With ticket prices below the cost of a movie ticket, or in this critic’s case an XBox game, there is no excuse for passing up this perfect study break.

Playing at the Four Seasons Centre, this is a performance designed for the stressed student looking for a study break. While the $22 Opera for a New Age tickets are all sold out, same-day tickets at the box office start from $12 for standing-only spots and $22 for seats. Tickets go on sale at 11am on show days. Check www.coc.ca for show times.

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