Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Peace can be ours when love we find

On Monday afternoon I saw the Glimmerglass Festival's new production of The Magic Flute, in a new English version by Glimmerglass dramaturg Kelly Rourke. Ms. Rourke's adaptation brings the action to the current day in a forest near a large city, where Tamino has gone to seek peace. In this setting a dragon would just be silly, so he's pursued in the opening scene by walking tree branches. Birnham Wood recycled from the concurrently running Macbeth?  No, shape-shifting vines. Papageno is a modern-day hunter who exchanges his kill with the Three Ladies for provisions like food and drink. The Masonic element of the original libretto is eliminated and elements of Native American spirituality and folklore are included. At least one person has suggested to me the Queen of the Night seems like a hippie, in direct opposition to Sarastro's representation of institutional science.

Sean Panikkar and Jacqueline Echols
Photo:  Karli Cadel, Glimmerglass Festival
Maybe I'm softening in my old age, but this is the second time in less than a week I'm saying the setting update didn't bother me. The story was timeless already, and this setting makes much more sense than using space suits or a post-apocalyptic freeway underpass as a setting. What did bother me, however, were occasionally awkward rhymes, occasional difficult vowels for some vocal ranges, and rare bad syllabification. An example of a rhyme that I didn't like: "I can hear his brilliant tones./Soon his song will join our own./And the second we've connected/we will make a hasty exit." (Pamina and Papageno). The title of this post is another example of the language I found a bit awkward.

These are minor qualms, I admit, and my only real complaints about the show. The singing was stellar. Sean Panikkar is a fine Tamino—certainly an experienced one, as at his tender young age this is his eighth Flute production—and gave Tamino a good combination of dignity and passion. His singing was quite pleasing. Papageno was sung by the charming Ben Edquist, whom we loved last year as Jigger Craigin in Carousel. Appropriately earthy, child-like, wise without book learning, and tremendously charming are ways to describe Mr. Edquist's Papageno.

Ben Edquist and Jacqueline Echoles
Photo:  Dory Schultz, Glimmerglass Festival
Pamina was sung by Jacqueline Echols, whom we loved as Giulietta in King for a Day at Glimmerglass in 2013. A lovely young woman with a beautiful voice, Ms. Echols was a perfect Pamina--sweet and vulnerable and not very bright. (An opera ingénue is supposed to have more sense than to pin her heart on a man she's never met, or to contemplate suicide because the same man isn't speaking to her.)

The Queen of the Night was sung by Glimmerglass Young Artist So Young Park. Her coloratura and her high Fs were spot on, and boy howdy, did she seem angry! Her accent was a little distracting in the spoken dialogue, however. Sarastro was guest artist Solomon Powell, also Banquo in the current Macbeth. He warmed up as the afternoon wore on, and his sound became ever more rich and sonorous.

Claudia Chapa, Aleksandra Romano, Raquel Gonzalez
Photo: Karli Cadel, Glimmerglass Festival
The remainder of the cast were all Glimmerglass Young Artists, all very good. The Three Ladies of Raquel Gonzalez, Aleksandra Romano, and Claudia Chapa were charming and lusty. Jasmine Habersham was a delight as Papagena, and Nicholas Nestorak was quite the smarmy Monostatos. Rhys Lloyd Talbot sang the Speaker and the 2nd Priest beautifully.

This was the second performance, and ten days had passed since the first. The performance I saw in some ways had the feel of opening night as final dress. There were ragged moments from the orchestra, and there were times when orchestra and stage were not together. I'm sure this will resolve itself as the cast and orchestra get more performances under their belts. And this in no way prevented me from enjoying the performance. Still highly recommended.

Because I forgot to mention this above, allow me to give credit where credit is due:

Conductor: Carolyn Kuan
Director: Madeline Sayet
Choreographer: Eric Sean Fogel
Sets: Troy Hourie
Costumes: Kaye Voyce
Lighting: Mark McCullough
Hair & Makeup: Anne Ford-Coates

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