Some masterpieces rely on formal unity and narrative logic, but Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute is not one of them; it defies conventional standards of coherence and intelligibility in favor of wit, fantasy, and a superabundance of imagination. As performed by the fellows of the Music Academy of the West last Friday at the Granada Theatre, the Flute cast its spell and demonstrated that for sheer musical invention, Mozart has never been surpassed. David Paul’s production put superlative music and dialogue into motion within a surreal set, complete with powerful lighting effects, a giant puppet serpent, and three singing boys entering in the basket of a flying balloon. Warren Jones conducted a natural-sounding yet rhythmically precise orchestra through the rapid changes and unusual arrangements of this ever-changing musical tapestry.
The evening got off to two splendid starts, if you count the magnificent overture. The opera proper got a tremendous boost from the three ladies attendant on the Queen of the Night — Alexandra Razskazoff, Diana Yodzis, and Sara Couden. Their comic squabble over who will guard the unconscious Tamino (Andrew Haji) made it clear that laughter would accompany the opera’s ravishing vocal pyrotechnics.
The Magic Flute runs on parallel tracks of high and low, with the hero, Tamino, his beloved Pamina (Julie Adams), and the all-powerful Sarastro (Matthew Anchel) mirrored by their comic counterparts, Papageno (John Brancy), the Queen of the Night (Claire de Sévigné), and Monostatos (John Kapusta). The Queen of the Night is not strictly a comic role, but rather a genre-bending, mind-boggling piece of Mozartian musical mischief, and Sévigné made splendid sense out of her notoriously difficult arias. The choral work was fine throughout, with the three boys in the balloon achieving particularly notable effects with their dreamy close harmonies. There’s nothing else quite like The Magic Flute, and this bright and fun-filled production brought Mozart’s masterpiece fully to life.