This is the third time in roughly a decade for the Canadian Opera Company to offer the Diane Paulus Magic Flute, with its meta-theatrical approach employing flamboyant visuals, from set and costume designer Myung Hee Cho. I hope I can be excused for using a photo with the 2017 cast. But I was trying to give an impression of the staging which isn’t tied to the casting.
As with their Traviata I think we forgive the company for opting to minimize risks in such a difficult time, planning in the shadow of the pandemic.
As with their Traviata the orchestra and chorus were the stars, the best thing in the show, particularly given the eye-candy. Conductor Patrick Lange led a wonderfully energetic account. I was especially taken by the flute solo in the last act initiation ritual, a wonderfully creative elaboration of what Mozart wrote and a bold departure from what we usually hear; was that Douglas Stewart, Principal flute? Bravo!
There were a few soloists who were especially impressive. I’m delighted to hear the voice of Gordon Bintner as Papageno, looking forward to hearing him again (when I use my subscription ticket later in the run). The voice is the most mellifluous sound we hear in any opera this spring from the COC. Every note is beautiful, the choices in his phrasing sometimes remarkable. He stands out in the cast particularly because his singing seems effortless, joyful, fun.
Midori Marsh was a good match for Bintner as Papagena, with a voice every bit as precise and tuneful in her small role, having impressed in her work in the virtual Mozart Requiem a few months ago.
Full disclosure: The Magic Flute was the first opera I really came to know from the inside out. My step-father bought the score when I was eight. My brother sang a Papageno at the COC in the 1970s. And I’ve been listening to or playing through this music all my life. Speaking as someone who has always thought of Magic Flute as one of my favorite operas, I’m happy with the COC’s production, which won’t disappoint.
David Leigh gave us a wonderfully full-bodied Sarastro. Caroline Wettergreen as the Queen of the Night managed to be impressive in this tiny role, always the one people remember.
It was great to see Russell Braun as the Speaker, a role to which he brought his usual gravitas. Michael Colvin reprised his brilliantly wacky take on Monostatos. Anna-Sophie Neher was a compelling Pamina, dramatically and vocally.
As Traviata is sold out perhaps Flute will also sell out? tonight was pretty full, the audience wonderfully enthusiastic, loving the novelty of a live performance. There are four shows left.