Results 1 to 3 of 3

Thread: The Magic Flute at Piedmont Opera

          
   
    Bookmark and Share
  1. #1
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    10,000
    Post Thanks / Like

    The Magic Flute at Piedmont Opera

    The Magic Flute, sung in English with English supertitles, translated from Die Zauberflöte, opera in two acts sung in German, premiered on September 30, 1791 at Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna, Austria



    Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder

    Piedmont Opera, Winston-Salem, NC, USA - This review is of the opening night on March 13, 2015. Two more shows will occur on March 15 at 2 PM and March 17 at 7:30 PM at the Stevens Center of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in downtown Winston-Salem - tickets available [here] for the performances and remaining associated events.

    Please consult Opera Lively's announcement and interesting interviews with four of the principal singers, by clicking [here]

    The Winston-Salem Symphony conducted by James Allbritten
    Piedmont Opera Chorus

    A physical production rented from Sarasota Opera, stage-directed for Piedmont Opera by Andrew Nienaber
    Scenic design by Troy Hourie (Sarasota Opera), coordinated by Dennis Gill Booth
    Lighting design by Norman Coates
    Costume design by Howard Tsvi Kaplan (Sarasota Opera) coordinated by Dina Perez
    Wig and make-up by Martha Ruskia
    Props by Kristina Stevenson
    Supertitles by Steve LaCosse

    Cast in order of appearance (principal singers in bold font)

    Tamino - Dominic Armstrong (Opera Lively interviewee)
    First Lady - Kristen Schwecke (Opera Lively interviewee for a previous production)
    Second Lady - Amanda Moody
    Third Lady - Laura Conyers
    Papageno - Ted Federle (Opera Lively interviewee)
    The Queen of the Night - Brittany Robinson (Opera Lively interviewee)
    Three Spirits - Alicia Reid, Samantha Johnson, and Lindsey Mecher
    Monostatos - Simon Petereson
    Pamina - Annamarie Zmolek (Opera Lively interviewee)
    The Speaker - David Weigel
    Sarastro - Ashraf Sewailam
    Papagena - Megan Cleaveland
    First Man in Armor - Craig Collins
    Second Man in Armor - Patrick Scully

    ---------------

    This was a charming show with many merits. First and foremost, maestro James Allbritten in my opinion is now tied with maestro James Meena for best operatic conductor in the state of North Carolina, and I'm quite sure he'd hold his own in other states as well. Being extremely busy with triple duty - he is not only the principal conductor of Piedmont Opera but also its general director and a prominent faculty member at the UNCSA/Fletcher Opera Institute - maestro Allbritten is not often heard outside of our state, which is a pity for other listeners who won't have the pleasure of attending his performances. Counting on a professional, well-established, and permanent symphonic orchestra of unusual quality for a city this size - the Winston-Salem Symphony - Allbritten's conducting is always perfectly synchronized with the stage, with excellent support for the singers (given that the maestro is a former singer himself who on occasion still takes on some comprimario roles), precise tempi and dynamics, and a phenomenal sense of style in terms of choosing the right approach to deliver each score that he conducts. He is an elegant and savvy conductor doubling as a phenomenal casting agent, being able to select incredibly good young singers for Piedmont Opera's compelling shows. To top it all, this talented man is also an extremely funny amateur stand-up comedian: his speeches in the after-show parties are hilarious. Unlike the precise pace of his conducting, his talks become interrupted many times because the patrons attending the party won't stop laughing. These parties are an attraction in themselves. The maestro scored A++ for conducting and the orchestra was just as perfect. The chorus was also very good (A+).

    Name:  IMG_2475 - Copy.jpg
Views: 310
Size:  85.2 KB
    Our maestro in the middle of being a stand-up comedian; Megan Cleaveland on the left and Ted Federle on the right; Opera Lively picture

    Second, what other small regional company can put together a cast with sixteen singing roles that is so homogeneous in quality? Piedmont Opera has no problem getting this done, such as in their historically good The Crucible a few years back. It happened again, last night. Let's talk about the principal singers, one by one.

    Tamino by Dominic Armstrong was a thing of beauty. Together with Annemarie Zmolek, I believe that Dominic provided the best singing of the evening, with a pleasant timbre that was helped by passionate phrasing and excellent projection. A+. His acting has some room for improvement, being a bit static. B

    Like I said, Annemarie Zmolek was the other outstanding singer last night, with goosebumping moments of purity of sound. This young lady definitely has a future. She also earns an A+ for singing, and her acting had enough emotion: A

    Ted Federle was great as Papageno. This is the third time I see him live and he never disappoints, with secure pitch control in all dynamics. A for singing, and A+ for acting with very good comedic sense. Of course Papageno is a make-or-break role for The Magic Flute. Ted, no doubt, made it, and the audience was appropriately delighted with his performance.

    Brittany Robinson as the Queen of the Night is a force of nature. She was fierce and with very powerful delivery in her two difficult arias, and showed great stage presence - one would love to see her in a longer role. She earns an A+ for acting. The first aria was very precise, with a slower pace which was immediately matched by James Allbritten. The second aria had a couple of pitch control problems and needs a bit more metric consistency (these issues were only noticed by someone paying very close attention). A- for singing.

    Ashraf Sewailan was a dignified and very competent Sarastro. Except for one occasion of volume reduction in the lower register before he warmed up (the issue did not occur later in the show), everything else went very well. He is granted an A grade both for singing and acting.

    In summary, all five principal singers were in A grade territory, confirming what experienced dramatic soprano Jill Gardner who was in attendance said to me at the end: "Very well-sung show!" This, coupled with Allbritten's perfect control of his orchestra made for a very satisfactory musical side of this Magic Flute.

    Comprimarios weren't bad either. Some of them were actually very impressive - as explained above, this is part of Piedmont Opera's amazing ability to have a strong cast in all roles. I've followed Kristin Schwecke's career from her early days of training at the Fletcher Opera Institute, and this young lady is simply phenomenal and always a pleasure to hear and see. One can tell that David Weigel, a current trainee of Dr. Marilyn Taylor's, will follow her steps. Simon Peterson, another Fletcher student who came all the way from Sweden to work with Dr. Taylor, was an excellent Monostatos in acting and voice. Megan Ann Cleaveland was a very nice surprise as Papagena: not only she is a very beautiful young lady (this certainly bodes well for her future in the current visually-oriented operatic environment) but she was also great in voice and acting (beauty alone will help with getting noticed but won't maintain a singer in a noticeable situation - but this charming lady who is a second-year fellow at the Fletcher seems to be the whole package and one to be followed). I shouldn't say it was a surprise, though, because her previous show as Olympia in the Fletcher's Tales of Hoffmann was already flawless - see our review [here]. The three spirits or boys had three good young female singers in trouser roles.


    Our young Papagena Ms. Cleaveland

    Judging from comments exchanged with patrons in the after-party, it seemed to be a consensus among the audience that this show was better sung than acted/staged. It did suffer a bit from static and somewhat imprecise blocking and somehow things did not catch fire (there was some subjective cement and cohesiveness that was lacking), and while the scenery and props were serviceable and had some good elements - the dragon was certainly nice and got the audience laughing - they were overall unimpressive.



    The scenic backdrop wasn't great, and costumes were also uneven, with the priests generally looking better than the other characters. It was hard to understand why the Queen looked rather indistinguishable from the three ladies except for a headset. We do get the economic realities of having to rely on rentals, but generally speaking, at Piedmont Opera when they do their own sets the results are often better. The Magic Flute is the kind of piece that asks for striking and imaginative visuals, and this production for the most part (in spite of some nice touches) isn't one of those. It must be understood that the physical production wasn't a disaster either - it's just that there is a noticeable contrast between the high quality of the singing/playing and the staging elements (which is unusual for Piedmont Opera - they often score highly in all items, such as in their spectacular The Flying Dutchman). Lighting and sound effects were good: A. Blocking, B-. Stage Direction, B. Scenery, B. Props, B+. Costumes, B.

    Name:  IMG_2464 - Copy.jpg
Views: 183
Size:  67.8 KB
    Curtain calls, Opera Lively picture - Papagena, the Three Ladies, and Sarastro on the left; the funny Papageno doing a bit of jumping, the Queen of the Night and Monostatos to his right, the Three Spirits and The Speaker on the extreme right.

    The verdict for this show according to Opera Lively's rating system (which is explained in a "sticky" post in this area of the site) is grade A-, or "recommended, but with many areas to improve." However this sounds worse than this show deserves, because while when we do the average certainly A- is the way to go given that it sits right in the middle of this show's range with A, A+, and A++ elements on top of it, and B+, B, and B- elements below it, one needs to understand that *all* musical elements occupy the upper range while the average is only dragged down by the non-musical elements. Given that opera although a complete art form is still primarily musical, this show is better than its final rating indicates (with its truly superlative conducting/playing and very fine singing), and I do strongly encourage audiences to purchase the last few tickets available for Sunday and Tuesday.

    The next shows in the Triad of North Carolina should be just as compelling. We'll have the excellent, intensely dramatic, and very theatrical opera The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti (1950), one of my very favorite pieces, done by the Fletcher Institute on April 22, 24, and 26. For tickets call 336-721-1945 or visit www.fletchopera.com . Our good friend and phenomenal soprano Jill Gardner will be live in concert on March 20th in neighboring Greensboro - visit www.MusicAcademyNC.org for tickets. May 9th will have Piedmont Opera's 24th Annual Magnolia Ball. The upcoming Piedmont Opera season has been announced and will have a Rigoletto with locally designed sets and Steve LaCosse's direction (Steve is a really good director so I have good expectations for this show), followed by Sondenheim's The Little Night Music. I am a little sad to see only one opera coupled with a musical (although a very good one) but again, I understand the economic realities, and I'm also confident that when Piedmont Opera does musicals, they do them right, unamplified and with operatic flair. Let's continue to support our excellent regional company Piedmont Opera!
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); March 14th, 2015 at 06:28 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Arlington, VA
    Posts
    3,584
    Post Thanks / Like
    To be fair to your singers' acting, The Magic Flute despite its stunning music, is kind of notorious as having a rather stiff and confusing libretto. There aren't a whole lot of opportunities for singers to demonstrate their well-developed acting skills.

  3. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    10,000
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    To be fair to your singers' acting, The Magic Flute despite its stunning music, is kind of notorious as having a rather stiff and confusing libretto. There aren't a whole lot of opportunities for singers to demonstrate their well-developed acting skills.
    True, but I've seen this opera multiple times both live and on DVD/blu-ray and there are productions where there is a bit more cohesiveness and better acting. On the other hand, rarely we get singing and playing that are this good, so this production was very good musically, like I said.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

Similar Threads

  1. Article: Exclusive Opera Lively Short Interviews With The Cast of The Magic Flute at Piedmont Opera
    By Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) in forum CMS Articles - Comments Forum
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: March 12th, 2015, 09:07 PM
  2. Adapting Magic Flute
    By MattExcell in forum General Operatic Discussion
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: June 15th, 2013, 04:36 PM
  3. Article: The Magic Flute at Opera Carolina, the Jun Kaneko production
    By Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) in forum CMS Articles - Comments Forum
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: January 20th, 2013, 05:24 PM
  4. The Magic Flute at Opera Carolina, the Jun Kaneko production
    By Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) in forum Opera House & Theater Performance Reviews
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: January 20th, 2013, 10:09 AM
  5. Mozart's Magic Flute
    By DrMike in forum General Operatic Discussion
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: December 16th, 2011, 11:19 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  


free html visitor counters
hit counter




Official Media Partners of Opera Carolina

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of Opera Carolina

Official Media Partners of NC Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of North Carolina Opera

Official Media Partners of Greensboro Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of Greensboro Opera

Official Media Partners of The A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute and Piedmont Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of The A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute
of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Piedmont Opera

Official Media Partners of Asheville Lyric Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of Asheville Lyric Opera

Official Media Partners of UNC Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of UNC Opera
Dept. of Music, UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences

www.operalively.com

VISIT WWW.OPERALIVELY.COM FOR ALL YOUR OPERA NEEDS