THE MAGIC FLUTE reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

November 17, 2006
Opera Atelier’s The Magic Flute, by W.A.. Mozart
Elgin Theatre, Toronto

Mozart’s masterpiece, spoken and sung in English, is a blessed event. There is a childlike simplicity in the opera’s telling of Tamino and Pamina’s adventurous path into the mysteries of Masonry and marriage. The dim lighting by Kevin Fraser, and Gerard Gauci’s earth-toned forest sets combine to create a dreamlike atmosphere of fairytales–“Hansel and Gretel”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Mother Goose”, and the quirky world of Lewis Carroll.

Marshall Pynkowski’s direction of the antic characters—Papageno and Monostatos in particular—nudges the farcical elements of the material towards the realm of a Wayne and Shuster send-up of stuffy classics. His direction of the more ‘serious adult’ characters such as the Queen of the Night and Sarastro blends broad element of melodrama that recall the operetta’s of Gilbert and Sullivan. Jeanette Zingg’s choreography of the ballet sequences brings seasonal overtones of “The Nutcracker.” All this with music by Mozart played by Tafelmusik Orchestra, conducted by David Fallis in the elegantly restored Elgin Wintergarden, makes for a special kind of hit.

Penelope Randall-Davis, who makes a spectacular appearance in the sky as Queen of the Night, hits all her high notes. Olivier Laquerre presents his Papageno with fluid grace and a humour that endears. His vocal work flows naturally and without flaw. Gerald Isaac in the role of the villainous slave Monostatos is marvelously quick and razor sharp in his movements and vocal attack. Colin Ainsworth and Peggy Kriha Dye as the romantic leads are both beautiful, in good voice, and charmingly coordinated in Dora Rust-D’Eye’s costumes. Brilliant turquoise and gold costumes and sets gleam out as the heroic young couple emerge from the veiled, nocturnal world of their trials into the temple of Sarastro, played by Curtis Sullivan, whose masterful basso grounds this radiant court of solar wisdom.

This Opera Atelier production of “The Magic Flute” has been a hit worldwide for 15 years. One could assume they have the recipe just right.
If I have a second thought, it comes from feeling a certain slackness in my attention during the performance, as though a necessary tension were missing, an energy that originates in distance from the drama, awe at the grandeur of character and action. The very familiarity that makes this production so accessible and immediate may also be dimming some of this opera’s original grandeur.

Play until November 25, Elgin Wintergarden Theatre, 189 Yonge Street, Toronto.
Tickets $30 to $125. For further information or to order tickets, call 416-872-5555 or visit www.ticketmaster.ca and www.operaatelier.com.

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