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A welcome return

The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
01/19/2017 -  & January 28, 29, February 1, 3, 4, 7, 10, 16, 18, 19, 24, 2017
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Zauberflöte, K. 620
Joshua Hopkins (Papageno), Andrew Haji (Tamino), Elena Tsallagova (Pamina), Ambur Braid (Queen of the Night), Goran Juric (Sarastro), Michael Colvin (Monostatos), Jacqueline Woodley (Papagena), Aviva Fortunata (First Lady), Emily D'Angelo (Second Lady), Lauren Segal (Third Lady), Charles Sy (First Priest), Bruno Roy (Second Priest), Martin Gantner (Speaker), Owen McCausland (First Armed Man), Neil Craighead (Second Armed Man)
The Canadian Opera Company Chorus, Sandra Horst (chorus master), The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, Bernard Labadie (conductor)
Diane Paulus (director), Ashlie Corcoran (revival director), Myung Hee Cho (set and costume designer), Scott Zielinski (lighting designer)

A. Haji & E. Tsallagova (© Michael Cooper)

The Canadian Opera Company’s 2011 production of Die Zauberflöte makes a welcome return under the baton of Bernard Labadie (in his COC debut), with Ashlie Corcoran, a graduate of the company’s Ensemble Studio, ably directing Diane Paulus’s production.

Paulus starts with the opera performed on a stage in a garden as part of the celebration of a young girl’s name day circa 1791. The young girl enacts the role of Pamina. The miniature stage, complete with period scene changes, gives way in the second act to a garden setting, the locale of the various interactions that occur as well as the naïvely staged trials. Emanuel Schikaneder’s Masonic morality tale might lack depth for the modern sophisticated audience, but the ever-engaging music, always enhancing the range of sentiments expressed, makes it one of the immortal masterworks.

The librettist was also the first Papageno and Schikaneder made sure he had the lion’s share at centre stage. Joshua Hopkins showed fine voice and comic flair as Rossini’s Figaro here in 2015 and is, if anything, even better as Papageno.

Probably creating the most buzz is debuting Russian soprano Elena Tsallagova as Pamina. This is one of the “ina” roles where charm and prettiness are deemed to suffice. She gives a lot more than that, with a big lyric sound, reminiscent of American soprano Helen Donath. By comparison, despite the beautiful natural tone and warm expressiveness of Andrew Haji’s voice, his Tamino is overshadowed a bit.

Back in 2011 Ambur Braid was a member of the Ensemble Studio and she performed the role of Queen of the Night in the single performance with the Studio cast. It comes as no surprise that six years on she fully expresses the role with its mix of sparkle and ferocity.

Goran Juric is a youthful Sarastro. Jacqueline Woodley returns as a delightful Papagena.

The Three Ladies are cast from strength, and the Three Spirits, members of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company, display an infectious enjoyment, especially when they suddenly sprout beards after Sarastro loses his. (What exactly is that all about?)

Five of the performances will see some cast changes, with Andrew Haji and First Armed Man Owen McCausland exchanging roles, and Phillip Addis assuming the role of Papageno, with Kirsten MacKinnon as Pamina, and Matt Boehler as Sarastro.

And of course it was great to see Bernard Labadie working his unobtrusive magic.

Michael Johnson



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