Saturday, November 2, 2019

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

OR Tell the Truth, Even if it's a Crime!

Both titles are are relevant nowadays. I won't go into the second, a direct translation of one of Pamina's lines in Mr. Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, but I must explain the first a little bit. I've had far too much sadness in my life in the past few years, and it's little moments when I'm reminded of magic and wonder that give me strength. That is why dear little Wolfie's perfect overture to Die Zauberflöte at Dallas Opera on Friday night, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, had me in tears. (When's the last time you heard someone say that about a Mozart overture?)

Andrea Carroll and Sean Michael Plumb
Photo:  Karen Almond for Dallas Opera
The cast was pretty darn good, but Andrea Carroll brought the most magic vocally. Whenever she sang one felt a buzz of electricity. Miss Carroll is a member of the Vienna State Opera, and I must say I'd dearly love to hear the roles she is singing there--Norina, Susanna, Adina, among others. I saw her sing Julie Jordan at Glimmerglass a few years ago, and wrote about her in glowing terms. As Pamina, she shone vocally, and showed Pamina's madness without overdoing it. (Let's face it--by contemporary story-telling standards, Pamina is not a sane girl! Then again, how might any of us react if we were held captive and didn't understand why, and the man who'd promised to save us seemed to reject us?)

Morris Robinson as Sarastro. More magic. I saw Mr. Robinson a few years ago as the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlo at Opera Philadelphia, and was quite impressed. I wrote, "He sang and acted the role in a manner both subtle and chilling. It was clear Mr. Robinson had the secure technique from top to bottom to sing a great Philip, which made his Grand Inquisitor even more powerful." He continues to impress as Sarastro, full of sonorous dignity and tenderness. I must have annoyed those sitting behind me, because my posture improved immeasurably every time he sang!

Bryan Frutiger as Monostatos, Sean Michael Plumb as Papageno,
Andrea Carroll as Pamina, and ensemble
Photo: Jason Janik, Dallas News
I saw Sean Michael Plumb, Papageno in this production, sing Fiorello in Barber of Seville a few years ago, again at Philadelphia, and I wrote, "...this is a voice we'll hear sing Figaro soon – and I hope often!" His singing was quite good, and his acting charming. I even like the pompadour (Papa-dour?) hairdo the designers gave him.

Ensemble members were uniformly excellent. The three ladies of Diana Newman, Samanatha Hankey, and Hannah Ludwig were great fun. Especially the Third Lady! I quite liked the two Armed Men of Aaron Short and Ryan Kuster.

Tamino was very well sung by Paolo Fanale. Jeni Houser was a good Queen of the Night, but I prefer a steelier voice in that role.

I told a fellow audience member I had never seen this production, which was perpetrated by Los Angeles Opera and Seattle Opera, but surely I must have. Costumes that ugly don't happen twice by accident. I hope most agree I'm a pretty nice guy, and it takes a lot for me to publish a statement that harsh, but these costumes deserve it. Second Lady--what were they thinking? And the chorus of priests brought to mind Planet of the Apes.

I could write Magic Flute stories for days. I have actually sung every tenor role in the opera, and have often used Papageno's music for mid-range warm-ups. (Mozart is said to have hated tenors, and one look at any tenor role in this opera will convince you of that idea--First Armed Man requires a baby heldentenor, and Tamino himself requires almost perfect vocal technique in the particular weight of tenor voice in fashion for Tamino this week. Monostatos is not an easy sing, and even the First Priest is a challenge!) And there's the time a new friend went on and on about how he hated Mozart operas, and then asked, "What's your blog again?"  Um. Taminophile.

I regret there is only one more performance of this run of Die Zauberflöte, but I hope that readers in the area will go to see it. I do highly recommend it. As always, excellent singing wins out over all other considerations. Even those costumes.

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