OPERA REVIEW: THE MAGIC FLUTE
Pictured: Olivier LaQuerre
JOHN COULBOURN, Special to TorSun
08 APRIL 2013
TORONTO - When it comes to collaborating on a certain operatic work by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, it doesn’t seem to bother Opera Atelier’s director Marshall Pynkoski and its principal designer Gerard Gauci one whit that, thanks to the vagaries of the English language, a flute can be either, a) a high-pitched musical wind instrument, or b) a tall, narrow wine glass usually reserved for serving champagne.
In fact, rather than attempt to underline the fact that the flute in question in their lush production of THE MAGIC FLUTE is of the musical variety, they just shrug their shoulders and serve up a production which is, in a very delightful way, a flute that is quite simply all of the above and a fair bit more. Opera Atelier’s revitalized FLUTE opened at the Elgin Theatre Saturday, the latest incarnation in the company’s two decade-long love affair with the work.
And, as usual, OA doesn’t so much revive a show as re-build it, this time out decanting Mozart’s glorious music — served up with winning charm by Tafelmusick Baroque Orchestra under David Fallis — and Emanuel Schikaneder’s fanciful libretto — translated with humour, respect and clear affection by Andrew Porter — in such a way that it fairly dances with bubbles that tickle a lot more than your nose. To accomplish this, they use a mix of singers, drawn from the OA stable of regulars — tenor Colin Ainsworth dons the role of the reluctantly heroic Tamino in such a way that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t tailor-made for him, while bass baritone Olivier LaQuerre turns the role of the bird-brained Papageno into a romp — mixed with exciting newcomers to the OA fold, like soprano Laura Albino, stepping into the role of Pamina with both assurance and style.
Then they throw in superb turns by bass João Fernandes (an elegant Sarastro) and soprano Ambur Braid (magnificent as the Queen of the Night) and two wonderful trios (Carla Huhtanen, Cassandra Warner and Laura Pudwell as the Queen’s Ladies; and Grace Lee, Lucy Fitz Gibbon and Cynthia Smithers as the Three Spirits) and it all gets even more impressive. And happily designers Gerard Gauci (sets) and Bonnie Beecher (lighting) have conspired to create a FLUTE that visually sets all those musical bubbles — romantic and comedic — to dancing, blending Gauci’s talent for stretching the imagination to its outer limits with trompe l’oeil eye candy with Beecher’s ability to make the most of a modern lighting grid, without ever sacrificing the imaginary golden shimmer of candlelight from the finest beeswax.
Finally to complete the blend, director Pynkoski manages to seamlessly incorporate just the right amount of elegant, even stately, choreography created by his co-artistic director Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, as well as the work of an impressive chorus, all the while never sacrificing a single drop of his madcap vision for Mozart’s work. So, finally, not only has Opera Atelier served up another truly magical FLUTE, they manage to keep it filled with a whole jeroboam of talent.