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Three boys [Photo by Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago]
02 Feb 2012

Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s recent revival of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte offered a production with vocal pairs carefully matched and dramatic representation expressing the varying shades of Mozart’s score.

W. A. Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Click here for cast and other production information.

Above: The three boys

Photos by Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago


Tamino and Pamina, the pair who must undergo separately tests of purification, were sung by Charles Castronovo (debut) and Nicole Cabell. The Queen of the Night, mother of Pamina, featured Audrey Luna (debut) and Evan Boyer assumed the role of Sarastro, since Günter Groissböck was announced as indisposed for the performance reviewed. Stéphane Degout (debut) and Jennifer Jakob were a musical and dramatic delight as Papageno and Papagena. Sir Andrew Davis conducted with attention to nuance while maintaining always a sense of the whole. During the overture Davis encouraged a terse interplay among the strings with a measured drive forward. Pauses were effective at transitional moments just as shifting tempos were integrated to give significant shaping to the overture.

The three ladies of the Queen of the Night acted and sang as a splendid trio. Once Tamino’s calls for help prompt their arrival and slaughter of the serpent pursuing him, the ladies moved in unison yet each doted individually over the unconscious hero. Elisabeth Meister as the First Lady led the ensemble with her focused soprano binding the vocal line as she encouraged a report to the Queen of the Night. Cecelia Hall and Katherine Lerner were equally entertaining in their attempts to remain vocally and physically in the presence of Tamino. When the latter awakens, he is met of course by Papageno who accepts credit for having delivered the hero from danger. In his introductory aria, “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” [“I am indeed the birdcatcher”], and ensuing dialogue Stéphane Degout combined a lyrical confidence with delightful swagger in acknowledging the unfounded recognition. As his discussion with Tamino is interrupted and punished, when the three ladies returned, Degout’s Papageno displayed his protests with convincing pantomime. In control of the stage once again, the three ladies present Tamino with a portrait of Pamina. In reacting to the portrait Castronovo’s performance of “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön” [“This portrait is magically beautiful”] displays lyrical heft and beauty of tone while some of the louder pitches could be rounded or softened to express the magical attraction. The entrance of the Queen of the Night and her first bravura aria provided Ms. Luna with opportunities to show her vocal facility [“O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn” (“O do not tremble, my dear son!”)]. Luna’s dramatic high notes on “Ach helft!” [“Oh help!”] were especially effective, these being followed by practiced runs in the famous coloratura passages. After Tamino and Papageno receive their magical instruments, flute and glockenspiel, from the ladies, they are instructed to follow the lead of the three Knaben [“youths”] to find the path to Pamina and rescue her from the palace of Sarastro.

Flute_Chicago_2953.pngNicole Cabell as Pamina

At the first appearance of Pamina under the guard of Monostratos, Nicole Cabell projected a noble demeanor on lines such as “Der Tod macht mich nicht beben” [“Death does not make me quake”]. In the ensuing duet with Papageno, “Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen” [“For men who truly sense love”], Ms. Cabell sang expressive, arching lines while Degout truly came into his own with a superbly resonant tone and appropriate legato. In the following scene Tamino searches for the entrance to Sarastro’s palace, in order to confront the alleged captor, just as Papageno leads Pamina in search of the flute’s response. Ms. Cabell’s encouragement to speak only the truth (“die Wahrheit”) rang out in pure high tones in preparation for the entrance of Sarastro. Mr. Boyer’s assumption of this role communicates the requisite weight of authority, and his distinctive and well developed low register contributes to a seamless vocal technique. His dramatic approach might be enhanced at this point in the action in order to signal the gravity of the forthcoming initiation.

Preparatory ceremony and eighteenth-century dress are emphasized in this production at the start of Act Two as both Pamina and Tamino are given instruction toward their trials of purification. Mr. Boyer’s Sarastro and the chorus assumed here solemn tones in keeping with the following ritual scenes. The interplay of power between the Queen and Sarastro focuses now on Pamina. Ms. Luna projected accelerating coloratura intensity in her aria “Der Hölle Rache” [“The wrath of Hell”] as she encouraged her daughter to kill Sarastro. Mr. Boyer’s subsequent rendition of “In diesen heil’gen Hallen” [“In these hallowed halls”] displayed excellent breath control with rounded bass emphasis fully audible. The final two highlights of this act belonged indeed to Ms. Cabell and Mr. Degout. Pamina’s “Ach, ich fühl’s” [“O, I feel it”] in response to Tamino’s enforced silence was performed with emotional commitment, skillful diminuendo, and further vocal decorations emphasizing the heroine’s plight. In Papageno’s “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” [“A maiden or a wife”] Degout acted and sang with genuine ardor, while he climbed onto the stage following his search through the aisles of the audience. In this scene Degout captured the essence of both the character and the music as he embellished his yearning lines with tasteful appoggiatura. In keeping with this performance Papagena was a fitting reward.

Salvatore Calomino

Flute_Chicago_0814.pngScene from The Magic Flute

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