Friday, April 22, 2011

Intimate Magic with Mozart and Opera Workshop's The Magic Flute at HSU

Both a hero’s journey and a love story, The Magic Flute is one of the most beloved operas of all time. Plus it features some of the best—and last—music Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ever wrote.

For three performances beginning April 22, HSU Opera Workshop presents a full production of The Magic Flute in the intimate setting of Gist Hall Theatre.

HSU student and lyric tenor Philip de Roulet plays the hero Tamino, and student Brandy Rose is featured in the lyric soprano role of Pamina, the princess heroine. Soprano Nanette Voss, well known on the North Coast for her community theatre work, plays the evil Queen of the Night. Recent HSU graduate Christopher Hatcher plays the comic baritone role of Papageno, and Steve Nobles (seen recently in Amahl and the Night Visitors at Ferndale Rep) sings the bass role of Sarastro.

 The Magic Flute is in a less formal style of opera that includes dialogue, a forerunner of modern musical theatre. Written in colloquial language, this version is in modern English. Because of the small size of Gist Hall Theatre, the audience will be closer to the action and the music than is usual for opera.

Director and HSU Music professor Elisabeth Harrington, together with student scenographer Rachel Parti have relocated the story’s setting to the ancient Mayan culture. “It’s a great fit,” Parti said, “especially because for the Mayans, birds and feathers were very sacred, and that ties in with the themes of The Magic Flute.”

Emphasizing the motif of birds and nature (a lion, a leopard and a coyote also appear) not only provides more color, it helped Harrington bypass elements of the story that today’s audience might find questionable distractions. “We want to keep the focus on the magic and the mystery,” Harrington said, “and on the message of love and friendship, nobility and bravery.”

The good-versus-evil story with a happy ending, as well as the dancers, comic elements and colorful setting will appeal to school-age children and adults, Harrington said.

 But the opera has also remained popular for centuries because of Mozart’s music. “Mozart wrote The Magic Flute in an incredible burst of creativity during the last six months of his life,” said Paul Cummings, HSU Music professor and Humboldt Symphony conductor, who conducts the 20-piece orchestra for the opera. “Even in a subordinate role, the orchestra gets to play the richest and most beautiful music you could possibly imagine.”

 The Magic Flute has a cast of 26, including a large chorus. Running time is estimated at 2 hours and 45 minutes. It is the first full opera to be staged in Gist Hall at HSU in at least six years. There's a special performance for local schools on April 21.

 The HSU Opera Workshop production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is performed on Friday and Saturday, April 22 & 23 at 8 pm and Sunday Apr 24 at 2 pm in Gist Hall Theatre on the HSU campus in Arcata. $7/$3 from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Directed by Elisabeth Harrington, orchestra conducted by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye, North Coast Journal, Tri-City Weekly

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