Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Magic Flute at SFO

Tuesday night I saw San Francisco Opera's new production of The Magic Flute, designed by artist Jun Kaneko. There are no sets. Instead, projected animations of simple patterns in basic colors provide the backgrounds. Costumes in simple shapes & solid colors suggest an Oriental fairy tale. It was to fun to see the huge bird hunted by Papageno & the toy-like, armless creatures charmed by Tamino's flute playing. I also liked Sarastro's spikey-haired lions.

Tenor Alek Shrader makes a smooth & pleasing sound, especially in his middle range. There's a slightly different quality to his highest notes. Nathan Gunn was an appealing Papageno & looked & sounded completely at ease. He even looked good in what was basically a green morphsuit. Soprano Albina Shagimuratova sang with great accuracy & made the Queen of Night's fearsome arias actually sound pretty. Tenor Greg Fedderly, with a Struwwelpeter hairdo, was a great comic singer & actor, & his Monostatos was merry rather than threatening. I liked bass-baritone David Pittsinger, whose voice was deep & even in the short role of the Speaker. Bass Kristinn Sigmundsson as Sarastro may have sounded even deeper, but I found his singing cautious rather than powerful. Soprano Heidi Stober looked like Alice in Wonderland in the 1st act, & her singing was strong, urgent & emphatic.

The 3 Ladies had competitive personalities in their 1st scene & wielded spears, looking like cartoon valkyries. The 3 Boys, dressed like rajahs, rode through the air in colorful ice cream cones & kept together well whenever they sang. Beau Gibson & Jordan Bisch had loud & sturdy voices as the 2 Armored Men. Soprano Nadine Sierra was irresistibly cute & flirtatious, even in a grotesque bird head. The only thing cuter was the brood of golfball-shaped chicks belonging to her & Papageno.

The Magic Flute, 06.19.2012 War Memorial Opera House, during intermission of The Magic Flute.Conductor Rory Macdonald made the music consistently buoyant, lilting & sunny. He never lingers, & tempos may have been fast for the singers. The woodwinds played sprightly & added a few flourishes. The performance was in an English version by General Director David Gockley. This made the dialogue scenes looser & more entertaining. The translation was often colloquial, with words like "goon" & mentions of drag queens & the economic downtown. Papageno's "O Weh!" was cheekily translated into "Oihme!"

I saw a fair number of children at Tuesday night's performance. I started in standing room, but was given a ticket for an orchestra seat by a gentleman who was enjoying the show but had to leave early.

§ The Magic Flute
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
New English version by David Gockley

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Rory Macdonald
Director: Harry Silverstein
Production Designer: Jun Kaneko

Tamino: Alek Shrader
First Lady: Melody Moore
Second Lady: Lauren McNeese
Third Lady: Renée Tatum   
Papageno: Nathan Gunn   
The Queen of the Night: Albina Shagimuratova
Three Slaves: Chester Pidduck, Michael Belle, Phillip Pickens
Monostatos: Greg Fedderly
Pamina: Heidi Stober
First Spirit: Etienne Valdez
Second Spirit: Joshua Reinier
Third Spirit: John Walsh
The Speaker: David Pittsinger
Sarastro: Kristinn Sigmundsson
First Priest: Christopher Jackson
Second Priest: Joo Won Kang
Papagena: Nadine Sierra
First Armored Man: Beau Gibson
Second Armored Man: Jordan Bisch

Tue 06/19/12 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

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