Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: THE MAGIC FLUTE at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Review: THE MAGIC FLUTE at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Review: THE MAGIC FLUTE at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

On Saturday evening, November 16, 2019, Los Angeles Opera presented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder's 1791 singspiel, The Magic Flute. The unusual production, which involved the appearance of screens reminiscent of 1920s silent films, was originally devised by Barrie Kosky, Suzanne Andrade, and Paul Barritt for Berlin's Komische Oper.

Kosky took the idea of a fairy tale opera that mentions animals together with monsters and, thanks to the magic of animation technology and opera house ingenuity, his team constructed a spectacle that took over the entire piece and its intentions. Dogs, wolves, and monkeys strained at leashes and pranced across the onstage screen while numerous birds and insects flew in formation and Papageno's cat turned aerial cartwheels.

Since the original singspiel had spoken dialogue with no accompaniment, pianist Peter Walsh played passages from Mozart Fantasias in C Minor, K 475, and D Minor, K 397, on the fortepiano as necessary interludes to accompany story-line translationWorking with animation has its limits, however. The singers were often placed in stationary positions so that the animation could occur around them. When the Queen of the Night asked Prince Tamino to find her daughter, she was high above the prince in the form of a huge spider whose legs threatened him as he tried to move across the stage floor.

Costume Designer Esther Bialas dressed most of the artists in dark colors that stood out against the light screens. Papageno wore a Light Brown suit and hat that made him into a Buster Keaton look-alike. Papagena wore sequined pink. Tamino's suit was black as was Pamina's dress except for a white ruffle at the bottom of her skirt. Later, she wore a long dress with a bustle. The audience only saw the upper half of the Queen of the Night. The lower half of her body was covered by the animation that made her a more than 20-feet-tall black-legged spider.

Although no singer was ever far upstage, Set Designer Bialas gave listeners flat screens instead of rooms and she did not supply any box-like scenic constructions that would throw the unique sounds, colors, and overtones of these specially-chosen voices out into the auditorium. It was a most interesting choice for opera.

Theo Hoffman was a boyish Papageno who lacked most of the "manly" virtues such as courage and fortitude. His character wanted merely good food, strong drink, and a beautiful girlfriend. He sang of his desires with excellent Mozartean style, bronzed lyrical tones and a smooth legato. I would like to see him perform this role in a setting that would allow him more freedom of movement but I enjoyed watching him in this show with his virtual cat and other animated characters.

A principal soloist at the Bolshoi Opera, Bogdan Volkov is a lyric tenor with a warm, inviting sound. His Tamino oozed with everything that Papageno lacked: spiritual strength, the ability to overcome temptation, and an appreciation of the finer things in life. Czech soprano Zuzana Marková sang Pamina with a rather dramatic sound that easily overcame the constricts required by the animation screens. Her character grew from a frightened young girl to a poised and confident young woman who would make a good consort for Tamino.

Kosky's Sarastro, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, was a black clad leader in a Lincoln-styled top hat. Although his bass tones did not boom as much as they usually do, he was an all-knowing father who brought sunlight onto the stage. So Young Park, a veteran Queen of the Night, showed prodigious technical facility with runs and trills. Unfortunately, this time one or two of her highest notes were a bit squally, but her characterization as the spider was fascinating.

Kosky's three ladies were stylish demoiselles from the Flapper Age. Their sound was gorgeous on the top thanks to soprano Erica Petrocelli. Mezzo-soprano Vivien Shotwell was always audible but mezzo Taylor Raven's low notes were hard to hear. Sarah Vautour was a sweet-voiced Papagena and Frederick Ballentine a vicious Monostatos. As the Speaker and the Armed Men, Michael J.Hawk, Robert Stahley, and Steve Pence sang with strong masculine tones. The voices of David Kakuk, Thomas Quinn Fagan, and Anika Ericson blended beautifully as the Three Spirits.

This was another of those wonderful performances where conductor James Conlon brings out Mozart sonorities that many of us did not realize were in the work. His tempi were brisk, neither too fast nor too slow. He led the orchestra in a luminous and translucent rendition of this well loved opera and the sold-out house thanked him with thunderous applause. Opera lovers can catch The Magic Flute at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Thursday November 21st, Saturday the 23rd, Sunday, December 1st, Sunday the 12th, and Thursday the 15th.

Photo: Cory Weaver for Los Angeles Opera

Joe Spano & More to Star in Rolling Southern California Premiere of THE REALISTIC JONE Photo
Laguna Playhouse announced, in association with Gare St. Lazare, Ireland and the Rubicon Theatre Company, Faline England, Sorcha Fox, Conor Lovett and Joe Spano starring in the rolling Southern California premiere of THE REALISTIC JONESES, written by Will Eno and directed by Judy Hegarty-Lovett.

Banksys Brace Yourself! Grim Reaper Painting Given To A British Band Sold at Juliens Aucti Photo
Julien's Auctions held on Wednesday, March 29th its headline making auction event “BRACE YOURSELF FOR BANKSY: MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART,” featuring over seventy original artworks from the likes of Banksy, Bob Ross, Colette Miller, Invader, Dave Navarro and Billy Morrison, Jim Carrey, David Yarrow, and more in front of a live audience at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills.

Sierra Madre Playhouse Prepares For Centennial In 2024 With Extensive Renovations Photo
Congresswoman Judy Chu, Assemblyman Chris Holden and former Sierra Madre Mayor Gene Goss all expressed enthusiastic support for plans to refurbish the Sierra Madre Playhouse in celebration of its centenary in 2024. They did so at a party for the Playhouse's major supporters at the home of board president David Gordon and his wife Sandy Brooke Gordon on Saturday March 25th.

Photos: First Look At World Premiere Workshop Musical DARK OF THE MOON At Rubicon Theatre Photo
First look photos! Rubicon Theatre of Ventura continues the company’s commitment to the creation of new works with the organization’s 46th mainstage world premiere - a developmental musical production based on Dark of the Moon, the 1945 Broadway play by Howard Richardson and William Berney.

From This Author - Maria Nockin

Maria Nockin worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York while attending  Fordham University across the street from Lincoln Center. At the same time, she studied voice, piano, and violin... (read more about this author)

November 9, 2021

Bryce Davis and Cilliers opened their recital program with Richard Strauss' and John Henry Mackay's uplifting 'Heimliche Aufforderung' ('The Secret Invitation'). This joyous, celebratory composition was the composer's gift to his bride on their wedding day. Bryce-Davis sang it with exquisite vocal colors. Next was Robert Schumann 'Die Lotosblume' ('The Lotus Flower') in which the poet Heinrich Heine described the beauty of the love between the flower and the moon. Bryce-Davis showed the lyric tones of her voice as she told of this delicate love.

ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR Begins November 2 on Home Computer ScreensONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR Begins November 2 on Home Computer Screens
November 4, 2021

This evening our online show is Los Angeles Opera’s La Traviata from 2006 with: Renée Fleming, Rolando Villazón, Renato Bruson, Suzanna Guzmán, Anna Akhimova, Daniel Montenegro, Philip Kraus, James Creswell, Sal Malaki, and Mark Kelley. James Conlon conducts the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. The stage director is Marta Domingo. Brian Large directs it for TV.

BWW Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: AZ OPERA'S FILM, THE COPPER QUEEN at Home Computer Screens
October 31, 2021

The Copper Queen is a modern opera by Clint Borzoni and John de los Santos that tells of times past in Bisbee, Arizona. It won an Arizona Opera competition that insured its place onstage. Because of the pandemic and the fact that currently audience size is quite limited, The Copper Queen became a film that can be experienced online. 

BWW Review: LOS ANGELES OPERA'S TANNHÄUSER at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: LOS ANGELES OPERA'S TANNHÄUSER at Home Computer Screens
October 25, 2021

On October  24, 2021, Los Angeles Opera presented Wagner’s Tannhäuser live online for patrons who cannot get to the theater at this time. Director Louise Muller revived the Ian Judge production of the opera’s Dresden version. A second live streamed performance will be available from LA Opera on October 27. 

BWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer ScreensBWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO at Home Computer Screens
October 24, 2021

On October 22, 2021, Opera Philadelphia began streaming its rendition of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. This staging is a judiciously cut two-hour-and-forty-eight-minute production by Opera Philadelphia, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, San Diego Opera, and Palm Beach Opera. Each company is choosing its own conductor and cast.