The Magic Flute
"The Magic Flute" is the last in the Dallas Opera's "Tragic Obsessions" series for the season, following Richard Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde," and Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata." It has more of a comic bent than the other operas in the series, and is essentially an Enlightenment era spectacle accompanied by Mozart's lively and expressive music.
Music Director Graeme Jenkins conducted the orchestra effortlessly throughout the three-hour performance. The Winspear Opera House is an undeniably beautiful venue, and the carefully designed acoustics produce a warm and rich sound that is sonorous, but never overbearing. At times it is so pure and clean that you almost forget that you are listening to live instruments.
Tenor Shawn Mathey as Tamino and soprano Ava Pine as Pamina are both talented singers, and their performances were both consistent and complementary. But villainous characters often have the best parts, and L'ubica Vargicova was especially enchanting as the Queen of the Night.
She reprises her role from the 2004 Metropolitan Opera production, exhibiting her stunning, powerful and well-controlled voice, which the New York Times praised for its "fearless attack, bright tone and impressive accuracy."
Bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi kept the audience in stitches as the pining bird-catcher Papageno, and did a fine job as the character that shoulders almost the entire comic aspect of the story. Carfizzi understands the physical aspects of comedy and made the most of the Winspear's huge stage, romping around and mugging for the audience, all the while maintaining the vocal clarity that has won him several awards.
Also, newcomer Anglea Mannino was sweet and effervescent in her Dallas debut as his female counterpart Papagena, and she brought a lighthearted sparkle to their final duet.
The bass sonorities were well represented by the various characters in the Temple of Sarastro, whose namesake role is performed by Raymond Aceto. He manages to sing in a way that is both forceful and calm, which illustrates the wisdom and power represented by the character.
The prolific Kevin Langan compliments him as The Speaker, having appeared in more than 80 roles throughout his career, in addition to tenor David Cangelosi, as the side-switching Monostatos.
The set design was simple but effective enough, mixing large physical props with screen projections in a way that made the most of the space and gave the scenes some depth and ambiance.
That said, I found the costumes in this production amateurish and somewhat disappointing, especially in contrast with the wildly inventive creations that that the Los Angeles Opera conjured up for their 2009 version.
Although the performance was generally successful, it did suffer from an excess of anachronistic Texas references, which are probably better left to the upcoming Cowboys Stadium simulcast. While a quick Lone Star beer joke went over well with the audience, the inclusion of three kids in Dallas Cowboys football jerseys at the end of the show seemed a little overindulgent.
However, considering the Dallas Opera has received more than 30,000 ticket requests for the stadium event thus far, the real question is, will this performance of "The Magic Flute" cast a spell on ticket holders and transform them into loyal opera fans? We'll have to wait and see.
"The Magic Flute" runs through May 6 at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2403 Flora Street in Dallas (With a special Cowboys Stadium simulcast performance on April 28). For info and tickets visit www.dallasopera.org