By Mike Gesler
Last night I had the opportunity to attend the final dress of Opera Grand Rapids’ performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s, The Magic Flute with libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. I must admit, I was going in with a little trepidation. Not because it was an opera; I love opera. While The Magic Flute is not my favorite, it does rank within my top five. My apprehension was caused knowing that Opera Grand Rapids was performing this final Mozart masterpiece in English rather than its original tongue of German. I wondered how well this opera would translate. My other hesitation was if Opera Grand Rapids could find a coloratura soprano who could carry the high A6 needed in both arias sung by the Queen of the Night. I wasn’t expecting Diana Damrau (YouTube her. I dare you.), but still, Mozart tailored this to the vocal range of the original singer, Josepha Hofer, and it’s been a challenge to many singers since. Yet, despite my reservations, I eagerly anticipated my night at the opera.
First of all, if you’re an opera fan or just opera curious, this production is a can’t miss. Seriously, to miss this show would be tantamount to missing the stars at night, the majesty of the mountains, or the oceans crashing on the shore. Yes, your life will go on, but it will be richer and fuller for the experience. The translation used from German to English rendered extremely well. And while Opera Grand Rapids still ran subtitles – if you have never attend the opera, there is a screen that runs English subtitles so you can follow along – it was nice not having to read in order to understand and follow the story. Opera Grand Rapids did this with intention; to make opera more accessible. And The Magic Flute is arguably one of the best entry level operas as it appeals to both children and adults.
Second, the cast was absolutely wonderful. The combination of James Marvel, Director, and Maestro James Meena, Conductor, allowed for an artistic vision that brought out the best of each performer. From the principle and support singers to the entire ensemble, I was simply amazed that Grand Rapids could find and support the talented singers who marveled me with their performance. I’ve lived in the Grand Rapids area now for twenty-one years, and I’m still pleasantly surprised at what I find.
If you’re not familiar with The Magic Flute, it’s a fairytale operetta of a handsome young prince, Tamino, who must rescue Pamina, the princess in distress. Tamino is played by tenor Dennis Shuman and Pamina is played by soprano Cheyanne Coss. Together their vocals are a beautiful blend in their duets, and Coss’ vocals have found a new fan. While young in her career, she is definitely one to watch. It is the Queen of the Night, played by Jana McIntyre (and yes she can hit the high A6) who enlists Tamino to liberate her daughter, Pamina, from Sarastro, the High Priest of Isis, played by Zaikuan Song. In the mix, Tamino is joined by Papageno, a simpleton bird catcher, played by John Viscardi, whose only real desire is to catch a wife. Tamino, Pamina, and Papageno each must face several trails to prove their worth in order to win what their hearts desires; love, wisdom, and enlightenment. The story is filled with humor and drama, good and evil that keeps the audience engaged as any good fairytale should.
Opera Grand Rapids, The Magic Flute, is on stage at the DeVos Performance Hall this Friday and Saturday, October 26 & 27, at 7:30 pm. The costuming is gorgeous, and honestly some of the best costumes I’ve seen for The Magic Flute. The set is simple, yet complex, and very effective especially when the entire ensemble is on stage. And the use of digital backdrops add to the story in much the same way that Mozart composed the music. Tickets are available starting at $26 and student tickets cost only $5. You can order tickets online through operagr.org or ticketmaster.com, or by calling 616.451.2741 ext. 3. One word of caution. The Magic Flute is a three hour show including intermission. While older children will be entertained through the entire production, thought should be given with younger children.
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