For the past several weeks, music and theatre students alike prepared to perform Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” for the annual major opera production at UNCG. Countless rehearsals have culminated in a week of dress rehearsals and performances, with the show ending on April 15.
Their hard work truly paid off, as it resulted in a production that was both aurally and visually stunning from beginning to end.
“The Magic Flute” is about a prince who is sent to rescue the queen’s daughter from captivity under the high priest, but what occurs is much more complicated. There are trials, near-death experiences and more – but of course, in the end, true love conquers all.
Composed in 1791, the year of Mozart’s death, the opera combines both spoken dialogue and singing. The cast sang in German but spoke in English, and between the dialogue and visual supertitles, the story was clear.
Though the story may be childlike, the true magic is in the music.
“The Magic Flute” has become a standard in the world of opera, along with a standard for Mozart, too. It exemplifies Mozart’s signature style in multiple ways, including an indulgence of magic, drama and true love. The characters are often stereotypical, and the plot is a common trope, but these things make it approachable. After a few years of more modern operas at UNCG, this offered the opportunity to go back to the roots of opera and reach a wider audience.
Stereotypes and indulgences aside, performing a Mozart opera is no easy feat. His music is technically demanding for both the singers and the instrumentalists down in the orchestra pit, stretching the limits of any musician for nearly three hours. There may not be epic, showy moments, but the style requires a certain lightness and grace that present their own challenges. Yet due to the musical stylings of the musicians involved, it sounded nearly effortless.
The orchestra opened with an extensive overture, setting the mood and introducing several musical themes. Their sound was full and lush, and even through more difficult passages, they stayed cohesive and sharp. They remained so for the entirety of the production, offering a stable musical foundation for the action onstage.
An exceptional orchestra really takes an opera production to the next level, and this one, led by orchestra director Dr. Kevin Geraldi, did just that.
From the overture’s first notes, the orchestra immediately transported the audience to another world, somewhere mythical and enchanting between the sun and the moon.
A highlight of the show was Christian J. Blackburn, who played Papageno, a comedic character. It was obvious that he was having fun with the role, which was a bit silly at times but provided levity in heavier moments. Aside from the comedy, his voice was strong – even when his mouth was locked shut.
Papageno served as sidekick to the prince, Tamino, who was played by Ian DeSmit, a vocal performance major. He captured the audience with a strong tenor voice, which made for an apt and stately presentation of a prince.
The second act featured the standout aria of the opera, performed by the Queen of the Night herself. Soprano Leanna Crenshaw’s voice soared over difficult staccato passages, effortlessly hitting infamous high F’s. With a dark blue wig and an epic crown, she embodied the part of a villainous queen.
In fact, all of the costumes were notably fitting. Against the backdrop of twinkling stars and the moon, every character fit into the scene perfectly. The set itself was truly something special, a perfectly magical setting that was impressively beautiful from beginning to end.
Overall, the schools of music and theatre achieved a highly musical and entertaining presentation of “The Magic Flute.” It serves as a testament to the long-lasting reputation of Mozart and his opera, providing a laugh and a little touch of magic to each member of the audience.