|Jenny Lynn Greene|
In contrast, the same loud and coarse orchestra seemed to cause Tamino to oversing on occasion. My initial impression was that this was a large-voiced Tamino, but considering the orchestra, that wasn't a bad thing. Michael Boley lists heavier roles than Tamino in his bio, including Hoffmann and Pinkerton, although he seemed to have scaled back somewhat for Tamino. There were many beautiful moments, mixed with just a few that seemed uncomfortable or awkward. Some of the passages where the tessitura hovers in the passaggio, such as the end of the aria Dies Bildniss, are known by us Taminophiles to be fiendishly difficult.
Alexis Cregger was a stunning Queen of the Night. Decked in a costume very much like that of the Evil Queen in Snow White (costumes were by Julia Cornely and Francine Garber-Cohen), she sang with great precision and richness of tone and a truly regal, if static, stance. This was no shrill Queen of the Night, but one with balanced, even tone throughout. Every high F was solid and secure, and most of the high Ds were, as well.
Monostatos was sung by the highly entertaining Gregory Couba. Although the role is often given to tenors for the wrong reasons, in this case I would say the casting was remarkably appropriate. Mr. Couba's plentiful experience in acting and dance were evident, and his singing was quite enjoyable. One had the feeling of 100% certainly, no matter what the orchestra did, and his characterization, at once both sinister and hilarious, showed a tremendous amount of work had gone into making it seem so easy.
Some minor quibbles include the need for cuts in the dialogue. The show was far too long. I thought the Papageno of John Schenkel, although in many ways quite good, relied a too heavily on shtick for laughs. Even with the eclectic mix of costumes, I wasn't quite sure having the Two Armed Men in what appeared to be Grecian soldier costume worked. I also wasn't crazy about when they relented from their guard-like stance to become chummy with Tamino for a moment when talking about Pamina, and then returned to that stance when she joined the scene.
There was a lot to like in this production, however, with the blatant exception of the orchestra. Visual elements, although mostly simple, were quite effective. I particularly liked the Act II set, which in effect used large barn doors to alternate between the temple meeting chambers where Sarastro and his priests met and other chambers. As I say, I liked the costumes, which seemed to borrow from many different time periods--Tamino and Pamina were in garb of Arthurian legend, and the Three Ladies were in some sort of post-apocalyptic punk garb, with colored wigs and extreme makeup. Sarastro (sung adequately by Steven Fredricks) and his priests were mostly in traditional Sarastro-liked robes, although some seemed to be in leftover Don Giovanni peasant costumes. I liked many of the touches director Linda Lehr added, such as the Japanese-influenced dragon and dancers carrying the birds Papageno chases.
The Magic Flute plays again next weekend, June 9 and 10.