Mozart makes magic


"The Magic Flute

Indianapolis Opera, Clowes Memorial Hall

Sept. 28 and 30

Last Friday, Indianapolis Opera opened its season with Mozart’s two-act Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) to a not-quite-filled Clowes Hall. It was IO’s fourth production of this sublime, sui generis stage work, completed and premiered a few months before the composer’s death in 1791.

Continuing with its past practice, IO cast Magic Flute in English for this “singspiel” (set pieces interspersed with much spoken dialogue). Almost everything about this production showed payoff skill, not the least of which was the singing.

A cast of practically all IO debut singers raised the average vocal ability above the company’s recent norm, starting with tenor Daniel Holmes as Prince Tamino. He is conveyed in a smooth, well-projected, well-controlled, even-centered delivery, nowhere better than in his first aria, following his being shown a portrait of Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night.

The Three Ladies, attendants to the Queen, were sung by sopranos Jennie Searles, Emily Albrink and Jennifer Feinstein. Their collectively wide vibratos compromised the ensemble blend to some extent, but their introductory music easily fits the sublime category. Bird-catcher Papageno was sung by baritone Andrew Wilkowske, who showed us another well-controlled voice within a lively persona. He sang with forceful, comic energy.

Any Queen of the Night role is the ultimate challenge for a coloratura voice, and Julia Kogan did well in her introductory recitative and aria, hitting that high F squarely on target even though the D below it was a little off. She has a greater challenge in Act 2 with her famous “All Hell’s Vengeance,” where she skips up to that F several times. Kogan handled those high registers about as well as many famous divas.

The shining star of this ensemble was soprano Marnie Breckenridge, singing Pamina. Her forceful delivery and her vocal control set the example for her fellow cast members, especially in her poignant second-act aria, “Ah, I Feel it, it has Vanished.”

Stage director John Davies made an appropriate use of children costumed in black moving sets in subdued light during scene changes. The youngsters also appeared as hastily begotten offspring of Papageno and Papagena as they joined the other principals at the end. IO artistic director James Caraher conducted the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra with good verve throughout.

See for a more detailed look at IO’s The Magic Flute.