BWW Review: In Series Stages THE MAGIC FLUTE at Masonic Temple
In its 30 seasons as a community-based, portable opera company, the In Series organization has appeared on a number of local stages, in colleges, revamped movie houses and contemporary theater spaces.
The locale for its current production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" is a big part of its appeal: The little seen, marble Art Deco auditorium of the D.C. Scottish Rite Temple, a work of historical and architectural significance that hardly ever opens to the public for cultural events.
The site was such an inspiration for director Rick Davis, that he tacked on a prequel to the work involving a group of Depression-era actors performing in the Works Progress Administration's Federal Music Project, thinking they are performing a different opera altogether - Verdi's "Il Trovatore" before they're clued into the Mozart.
That makes the setting for the opera exactly where it occurs: The Scottish Rite Temple, of Washington, D.C.
The graduation of different degrees at the temple take place as theatrical events, with props, costumes and elaborate sets - so the stage was all ready with two of them, one of them a forest, the other an extensively painted Mesopotamian scene that could be used for the palace. One of the marble side windows was used for some action as well.
That the stage floor was carpeted is some sort of Masonic tradition, but it made for a nice area for the 10 piece orchestra under the direction of Stanley Thurston.
Costume designer Donna Breslin, who also made the pieces, was good enough that the Masons may want to hire her for the next Scottish Rite degree presentation.
In short, it was a good locale for an opera that is said to reflect some of Mozart's own Masonic tendencies.
In this light version, though, Emanuel Schikaneder's libretto has been adapted and updated with some slang here and there by Nick Olcott, which gets a clear enough reading from the talented cast that perhaps the supertitles could take a rest.
Having a Depression-era company do Mozart means that it is them that cobbles together an almost impressionistic dragon - not In Series. And there's a lot of double takes and comic gestures, the bulk of which come from bass Daren Jackson as the comic sidekick, the bird catcher Papageno.
The hero here is the oft-seen tenor Joe Haughton, who does a good job in pursuit of soprano Emily Casey, a standout as Pamina. She's the daughter of the villianness Queen of the Night, who provides Kelly Curtin with some terrific coloratura soprano parts.
The work takes wing on the work of a couple of trios - the queen's three ladies who first lay eyes on the injured hero, Cara Gonzalez, Elizabeth Mondragon-Groff and Katherine Ann Fili; and the three spirits enlivening the second act, Suzanne Lane, Rebecca Henry and Arya Anoush Balian. (The number three has an important significance in Freemasonry as well).
There may not be a better place for In Series' "The Magic Flute" than this imposing building, but while there, they may want to look into doing some time in the future, Wagner's "Parsifal" or Beethoven's "Fidelio," both of which are sometimes also associated with Freemasonry.
Running time: Two hours, 45 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission.
Photo credit: Daren Jackson, Joe Haughton and Cara Gonzalez in "The Magic Flute." Photo by Angelisa Gillyard.
The In Series production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" plays through Oct. 1 at the D.C. Scottish Rite Temple, 2600 16th St. NW. For tickets call 202-204-7763 or go online.