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Review: Creativity has ‘Magic Flute’ delightful ... on a shoestring

Sunday, August 12, 2012
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— The Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre’s production of Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” (“The Magic Flute”) is a hit.

It’s not that the singing is spectacular or that the sets and costumes are luxurious and ornate or that the orchestra is a sensational band of pros brought up from New York City. But HHOT’s artistic director Alexina Jones, who also took a turn to sing as one of the three young maidens, enlisted the right people for the right tasks and with a shoestring budget but tons of imagination. It all worked.

Mozart is not easy to sing, play or produce. He needs agile singers with great ranges who are willing to do, for this opera, an almost slapstick routine. A conductor needs to keep the pace fleet and the musicians sounding frothy and light. A director can’t let his singers get too out of hand with the comic asides even as they must convey romance or sadness.

Tenor Brian Kuhl as Tamino was the straight man to baritone Andrew Pardini’s Papageno, the bird catcher. Their arias were strongly projected with solid phrasing and richly finished tones. Pardini did just enough in his feather costume to not be predictable or tire the capacity crowd with his antics.

Soprano Brooke Schooley as the Queen of the Night had two of the most difficult arias in the repertoire and she nailed every note. Her coloratura demands were done with big, if a bit shrill, tones but she acted with a fierce intensity.

Bass Jeff Martin as the Speaker had finely arched lines and bass Charles Martin as Sarastro did well, especially showing a strongly resonant speaking voice. Mary Thorne as Pamina, Paige Porter as Papagena and the rest of the chorus also did well.

The singing was in German but the dialogue was in English along with the supertitles. Everyone’s diction was surprisingly good.

Paul Houghtaling’s creative and imaginative directing came as no surprise. For those who remember him from his 2005 Lake George Opera performance in a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, know that he can make the smallest moment rife with laughter.

The set, which was utterly basic, incorporated the entire hall as there was a ramp around the musicians that was barely 10 feet from the first row. So the action was very up close and personal.

The 20-piece orchestra under adept conductor Kelly Crandell was mostly young players but their dedication to doing a good job produced enthusiastic results. Sherry Recinella’s costumes, masks, and dragon were colorful and fanciful.

The crowd gave the cast a long and appreciative standing ovation. Who can ask for anything more?

Other performances of “The Magic Flute” are at 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. next Sunday.

 
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