Music by Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart.
Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder & Carl Ledweg Giesietke.
Conductor: Rory MacDonald.
Stage Director: Neil Armfield.
At the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Mozart’s classic opera marred by ridiculous staging.
After seeing several terrifically staged Magic Flutes I was anticipating the Lyric’s new production. Boy, was I disappointed! Australian director Neil Armfield and set designer Dale Ferguson ended up with a hideous Cape Cod-style house centered on stage that revolves to show all sides. The concept here is a 1960-70’s rural Austrian (?) home where the children are putting on an opera – Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Using the house’s front porch as a stage with lawn chairs filled with friends and neighbors including children, the group is ready for a ‘home-grown’ opera. What a stretch! This design not only hampered the production, it also was a visual distraction that many found offensive. Each time the house completed a 360, I was hoping something fantastical would emerge. But that never happened. I sure miss the amazing animals of the Julie Taymor’s production.
However dysfunctional Armfield’s concept is, the real magic lies in the opera’s execution. From conductor Rory MacDonals zesty music from Mozart to the fine vocals from the principal performers to the rich chorus work, this production is magnificent. yes, The Magic Flute is bullet proof – no strange set design can kill this wonderful material.
Tenor Andrew Staples is a winning Prince Tamino who endures trials before he can wed soprano Christine Karg’s Pamina. Each are charming with power voices. Tamino and the whimsical Popagano, played hilariously by bass-baritone Adam Plachetka who steals several scenes. Audiences love this wacky yet gentle soul as they home he’ll fond a wife.
Coloratura soprano Kathryn Lewer nails her arias with vocal dexterity. Bass Chrisof Fischlesser as Sarastro commands the rituals. The Three Ladies: soprano Ann Toomey; mezzo-soprani Annie Rosen; and contralto Lauren Decker sing fine harmonies while the three young boys (Genies) Casey Lyons, Parker Scribner and Asher Alcantara sprinkle magic dust while singing nice harmonies.
Utilizing singspiel, a popular form that included both singing and spoken dialogue, there is much spoken dialogue here that slows down the production. But when this production ‘sings,’ it sizzles. At the performance i attended there were children present. I’m not sure this production was for them. Julie Taymor’s production in English with terrific animal puppets was best for kids. But, again the music, the vocals and the heartfelt story is universal.
Once the shock of the set is absorbed, settle back and enjoy the genius of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Date Reviewed: December 12,2016.
For more info checkout The Magic Flute page at theatreinchicago.com.
At the Civic opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $17-$329; 312-827-5600, www.lyricopera.org, running time is 2hours, 50 minutes.