Beautiful Singing from a Silent Screen “Magic Flute” – Los Angeles Opera, February 24, 2016

Barrie Kosky’s and Suzanne Andrade’s production of Mozart’s perennial favorite fantasy opera, last seen in 2013, proved so popular that it was quickly revived for a second showing with a new cast.

In our previous review, the concept and origins of the production was described in great detail [Outrageously Inventive, Unceasingly Entertaining – Kosky/Andrade /Barritt’s Silent Movie “Magic Flute” Wows L. A. – Los Angeles Opera, November 23, 2013].

The 2016 cast emphasized the youthful voices of rising operatic stars.

Kansas tenor Ben Bliss sang the role of Tamino, a role that requires extraordinary voice control.  He gave a damned fine show indeed! Himself a graduate of the Los Angeles Opera’s Young Artists’ program, he is scheduled to assume the role of Flamand in this summer’s new production of Richard Strauss’ “Capriccio” at the  Santa Fe Opera.

[Below: Ben Bliss as Tamino; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathew photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]

LA FLUTE (400) BLISS TAMINO

The Norwegian lyric soprano Marita Sølberg was Pamina, whose makeup and costumes are an homage to famous 1920s silent screen beauties (most particularly, Louise Brooks).

The highlight of any great Pamina’s performance is her soulful aria Ach, ich fühl’s, which she performed superbly, garnering loud applause.

[Below: Marita Sølberg is Pamina; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathew photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]

LA FLUTE (400) PAMINA

New York baritone Jonathan Michie has had important assignments at the Oper Leipzig in Germany, where he has been a Young Artist, and was hilarious in the Santa Fe Opera’s production of Offenbach’s “The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein”.

Being cast in the iconic role of Papageno at the Los Angeles Opera would be a milestone in any young baritone’s career. Michie did a fine job, establishing rapport with the enthusiastic audience.

[Below: Jonathan Michie as Papageno; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathew photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]

LA FLUTE (425) PAPAGENO

South Korean coloratura soprano So Young Park, who was a dazzling Queen of the Night at the 2015 Glimmerglass (New York) Festival [Review: Sean Panikkar, So Young Park Brilliant in Madeline Sayet’s “Magic Flute” – Glimmerglass Festival, July 20, 2015], drew enthusiastic ovations from the Los Angeles audience, who, like me, found her two great showpiece arias highlights of a successful evening.

[Below: So Young Park as the Queen of the Night; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathew photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]

LA FLUTE (400) SO YOUNG PARK

Basso Wilhelm Schwinghammer was Sarastro, who showed excellent acting skills, in addition to a solid vocal performance. Brenton Ryan was a subdued Monostatos, this often manic character having rather less to do in this film noir production.

The three ladies were Stacey Tappan, Summer Hassan and Peabody Southwell. Vanessa Becerra was Papagena. The First Armored Man was Frederick Ballentine. The Second Armored Man (who was also the Speaker) was Nich0las Brownlee.

[Below: Pamina (Marita Sølberg, left) and Papageno (Jonathan Michie, right) agree on the virtues of a happy marriage; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathew photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]

LA FLUTE (425) PAMINA PAPAGENO

The animation design was created by Paul Barritt. The sets and costumes were designed by Esther Bialas. Grant Gershon was Chorus Director and Trevore Ross was Associate Director.

[Below: the Queen of the Night (So Young Park, top center) attempts to enlist Pamina (Marita Solberg, bottom center) to do her bidding; edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathew photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]

LA FLUTE (425) QUEEN PAMINA

Three of Barrie Kosky’s productions from Berlin’s Komische Oper have now been performed by the Los Angeles Opera – including a double bill of Purcell [Review: Barrie Kosky’s Spirited “Dido and Aeneas” Arrives at Los Angeles Opera – October 25, 2014] and Bartok [Review: Béla Bartók’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” at Los Angeles Opera – October 25, 2014], mounted at the company’s Main Stage Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

[Below: Sarastro (Wilhelm Schwinghammer, in upper right circle) pairs Tamino (Ben Bliss, right) and Pamina (Marita  Sølberg); edited image, based on a Craig T. Mathew photograph, courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera.]

LA FLUTE (425) FINALE

James Conlon, always a strong advocate for Mozart’s masterpiece, showed relish conducting the opera in Kosky’s zany concept. As always his pre-performance lectures were presented to standing room only crowds.

If one of the reasons for presenting this unusual production is to attract younger audiences, the Wednesday night performance I attended appeared to have easily met such a goal.