Dates and Venue 9 – 17 March 2013, 7.30pm (Sun matinees at 1.30pm) | Queen Elizabeth Theatre
John Tessier Queen of the Night Teiya Kasahara
First Lady Melody Mercredi Second Lady Leah
Alfred Third Lady Marion Newman Papageno
Joshua Hopkins First Spirit Tiana Jung Second
Spirit Madeleine Tan Third Spirit Roan Shankaruk
Pamina Simone Osborne / Rachel Fenlon Monostatos
Michael Barrett The Speaker Aaron Durand Sarastro
Philip Ens Papagena Sylvia Szadovszki
Performed In English with English Surtitles
Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle
Fuse the ‘something seductively sensual’ dripping from Mozart’s soaring Queen of the Night arias with her majestic midnight blue Monarch butterfly winged wardrobe and you have all the exalted ambiance of an altered state. And that is just a foretaste.
This year, once again, like 2007, Vancouver Opera puts an ‘original’ spin on the ‘Aboriginal’ element, but with even more high-tech wizardry, more stunning set pieces, and more consummate costuming. The Magic Flute of 2013 pulls together the disparate threads of an old world European story of love-on-trial, weaving them in a high-tech representation with the threads of an even older world First Nations mystique involving Nature’s spirit world and the mystical chief, Sarastro.
Opening night at the Vancouver Opera The Magic Flute did not disappoint the capacity crowd. The opera thrilled them. Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation appeared on the stage at the start to open the evening’s ceremonies with a traditional canoe song, setting an appropriate tone for what was to come. Early arrivals had already gotten a taste of the First Nations men and women dressed in ceremonial garb drumming, dancing, and singing traditional native songs in the reception area. Then, the opera took the stage and a world of transformation was born.
Passions started to rise even more, right from the moment the Three Ladies (Melody Mercredi, Leah Alfred, and Marion Newman) who wait upon the Queen of the Night happened upon the lifeless form of the wandering prince Tamino. They soon began to express in lovely soprano arias how smitten they were with him. Before long, the Queen of the Night (Teiya Kasahara) herself appeared, serene and sensual, softened behind the silk screen, on the raised platform above the stage, and framed in a full moon aglow. Ms. Kasahara handles the impossibly high variations of her coloratura soprano parts with impeccable professional finesse, making the arduous seem effortless.
John Tessier’s memorable tenor breathes ardour and amorous life into his Tamino, who is quickly convinced to pursue and restore the beautiful Pamina. According to the Queen, her mother, she has been kidnapped by the evil Sarastro. Tamino is assisted in his quest by Papagino, played boldly by baritone Joshua Hopkins. Papagino is the first to find Pamina, and he quickly tells her of Tamino.
Pamina is played to lovelorn, lustrous perfection by former UBC graduate, and now an international sensation—the lovely and talented soprano, Simone Osborne. Her impeccable voicing vies with the inestimable tonal quality of her awe-inspiring range, neither of which outdoes the other in the bid for excellence she easily wins with this memorable role. Pamina proves to be a worthy prize for which many would quest.
There are so many phenomenal performances in this opera that my review would be ponderous were I to mention them all. So, I’ll just end the way I began, with ‘fusion’: Part of the way that Vancouver Opera delights its audience is through the use of expensive (to the tune of $90,000) video projection technology with which it creates state-of-the-art three-dimensional effects, washing the theatrical performance-space from stage to ceiling with imagery designed to augment the aural experience in a fusion of sight and sound, blending the primordial and contemporary worlds of the VO’s ‘modern’ interpretation of this classic opera.
This unique high-tech synthesis combines with sensational acting and singing in a synaesthesia with the operatic libretto to effectively enhance the audience’s sense that the spirit world is as prevalent as the idea of an ultimate fusion of good and evil forces inherent in The Magic Flute of 2013 is prescient.
Mozart might not have envisioned the transformative fusion portrayed by Robert McQueen’s adaptation of this opera’s libretto, but he surely would have approved. The Magic Flute of 2013 is opera at its spectacular finest.
© 2013 Roger Wayne Eberle