Blown Away by The Magic Flute!
This particular production of Magic Flute will now and forever have special place in my heart. I’m currently on the sub list for Houston Grand Opera, and occasionally get the call to go down south to perform. The day after Christmas, I was lucky enough to be contracted to play in the pit, and perform this opera. On top of that- I was able to perform alongside my insanely talented husband, and other cast members I’m now fortunate to consider as friends.
As I’ve been thinking about what to write for this production, I’ve been thinking about how amazing it is to be able to be a part of the opera world as a performer, and as a partner to Tommy Glass. The people I’ve met have absolutely touched my heart, and their stories make them all the more incredible. The career path of an opera singer is a hard one- being gone for weeks on end with just a suitcase- having to figure out how to pack for multiple places in one go, figuring out places to live for each contract- and then on top of that being able to perform excellently each night. I think it’s easy for anyone not on that stage to not realize that these artists have unique and wonderful lives that aren’t about being an opera singer. From being an aerialist, to performing over 1000 Quasimodo’s, to performing shows with type 1 diabetes…it’s so important to acknowledge these artists for what they give us rather than read another bitter review where a writer has no idea what goes into the art they are are seeing. So with that- here’s another pit confession on an incredible run of Magic Flute.
The music of the Magic Flute is unforgettable and charming. The characters are relatable and unforgettable. The story gets bit weird and you might have no idea how things are happening but none the less-we arrive at a happy ending. To top it off, this exciting production has an unexpected element. When the curtain rises, the audience is in for a visual feast- The projections follow the style of an old school silent movie. But no fear- even with the lack of dialogue the story is easy to follow and will have you belly laughing.
This particular production is a revival--brought to Houston by Erik Friedman. The stage was filled by a giant white wall. Singers had to wear harnesses to keep them safely attached to doors that pivoted around for entrances and exits. They stood on ledges that had no more than two feet of space to stand on. Talk about performing under pressure! On top of all of the staging challenges with the wall, they also had to sing, and act with projections that they couldn’t necessarily see while performing.
While we were performing at HGO- I found myself constantly drawn to look up from the pit when I wasn’t preoccupied. In the projev you could find delightful vignettes that had double meanings, and images to help set the music and performers. From Papageno’s trusty animated cat, Karl-Heinz…to the German written in the mind of Sarastro…to the spindly apendages of the Queen of the Night- this “movie” had immense attention to detail. I don’t want to give to much away- you’ll just have to see it for yourself when it’s in a city near you. Its a completely different experience than any opera you’ve attended before, and it’s something I hope will bring us further into a more modernized way of seeing opera. A way for audiences to connect further to our art form.
Being a part of this company and working in the performance of this opera was such a joy. It’s filled with catchy numbers, and I think I’m still humming them subconsciously a week later. There’s a reason we still find Mozart charming centuries later! We were led by conductor Dame Jane Glover. She is considered a “Master of Mozart” and it was apparent as we put this entire production together with SIX rehearsals. Before opening- there was only one chance to run the entire show as is. It was an amazing experience watching her lead us all, and seeing how she was able to connect the pit to the stage. She had a clear idea how we were to be musical companions to the singers, and kept all of us together with the projections. As always, the HGO chorus- perhaps my favorite chorus was incredible. This show doesn’t always use them, but when they’re on stage- you know it! Led by Maestro Bado- they have a commanding presence, and filled your ear with gorgeous sonority.
Andrea Carroll was an exquisite Pamina. In her aria, Ach ich fühl’s, she had a longing and tragic quality that just lingered hauntingly after her last note faded. I had the chills every night. Her pure tone of voice rounded in a graceful way that just pulled on your heart strings. It’s a gorgeous instrument that is unique in it’s distinct and clear sound.
Norman Reinhardt has played Tamino on stages across the world, and one can hear how well he knows this character, despite the productions limited physical demands. He showed great emotion and direction with just his facial expressions. To sing some of the operas hardest phrases while harnessed twelve feet in the air with such beauty and ease should not go without great commendation.
Thomas Glass was an impeccably cast Papageno- his acting infectious and his warm robust tone immediately drawing the listener in. He made the audience fall in love with the simple and relatable character, and was good for many comedic moments. His interactions with the projections were always well timed, and his expressive face was always something to look out for in every scene.
Rainelle Krause was a fierce Queen of the Night. Krause is actually also known for her expertise as an aerialist. From up close, you could see she was living her best life while appearing to dangle happily from that 12 foot ledge while cocooned within her costume. The aria, Die Hölle Rache, perhaps one of the most known musical moments in the classical repertoire was superb- with the soprano nailing the difficult high arpeggios every single time.
Anthony Schneider was a commanding bass on stage, despite having to sing with a mask 4/6 performances. His deep and warm sound filled the hall, impressive and important. He portrayed Sarastro with great dignity and a stoic demeanor the logical character demands.
Aaron Pegram draws you in with his bright presence on stage and with his elegant tenor voice…despite it being for the morally questionable Monastatos. From his creepy fingers, to his acting with his wolves, Pegram was a perfect darkness to the fantastical of this opera.
The three ladies were sung by Caitlin Lynch, Taylor Raven and studio artist Sun-Ly Pierce. Their sassy poses and their conniving quintets were especially a joy to watch. Their voices blended beautifully..Lynch, the soprano, sang effortlessly at the top while Pierce and Raven set a rich tone with their Mezzo Soprano voices.
Raven McMillon, the long awaited Papagena, was a delight. Although she appeared in only one scene, her sparkling soprano and her part bird, part flapper costume made a lasting impression. I look forward to hearing her sing more in the future!
The armored men Eric Taylor and William Guanbo Su, both studio artists, were strong voiced and effortless as they traveled downward towards the trials with Tamino. Their voices tangling with the crawling fugue from the pit, these two singers are ones to keep eyes out for.
Finally- the three spirits were sung very well by young talented singers- especially impressive with their lighter sound.
As always, I like to write about these performances to highlight the talent on the stages, in the pit- and the minds that bring the stage to life. For those who still say classical is dead- I encourage you to find any performance near you- and if you see this one- or any of these singers- support them. They’re fantastic people, with tremendous heart and talent and deserve two hours of your time.
Keep it glassy y’all 🤗