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An Abundance of Charm

Alice Busch Theater
07/10/2015 -  & July 20, 23, 25*, 28, August 2, 7, 10, 14, 18, 23, 2015
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart : Die Zauberflöte, K. 620
Sean Pannikar (Tamino), Jacqueline Echols (Pamina), Ben Edquist (Papageno), So Young Park (Queen of the Night), Soloman Howard (Sarastro), Jasmine Habersham (Papagena), Nicholas Nestorak (Monostatos), Raquel González (First Lady), Aleksandra Romano (Second Lady), Claudia Chapa (Third Lady), Rhys Lloyd Talbot (Speaker, Priest 2), Brian Wallin (Priest 1), Stephen Carroll (First Armored Man), Anthony Schneider (Second Armored Man), Joelle Lachance, Samuel Soloman, Andrew Pulver (Three Spirits)
The Glimmerglass Festival Chorus, David Moody (chorus master), The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra, Carolyn Kuan (conductor)
Madeline Sayet (director), Troy Hourie (set designer), Kaye Voyce (costume designer), Eric Sean Fogel (choreographer), Mark McCullough (lighting designer)

S. Panikkar, B. Edquist (© Karli Cadel)

The one word that sums up this production of Die Zauberflöte (here billed as The Magic Flute, in Kelley Rourke’s endlessly amusing translation) is charm. Director Madeline Sayet and her team have conjured up a woodland setting where stressed-out businessman Tamino has fled. The ‘dragon’ he encounters turns out to be a group of mischievous forest creatures. Later on, Sarastro and his group are lab-coated scientists. The trials (cleverly lit and staged) make as much sense as they do in a conventional staging.

Sean Pannikar gives a rather uncomfortable impression in his rapturous aria on gazing at Pamina’s portrait (translated as "A vision dazzling as the sun") as he gives it a forced, hard edge. He accomplishes things much more gracefully as the work unfolds.

There are 12 of the festival’s Young Artists in the cast, most notably Ben Edquist in the work’s longest role, Papageno, which he imbues with a goofy, everyguy kind of charm. Outstanding in a smaller role, that of the mostly parlando role of The Speaker, Rhys Lloyd Talbot displays what I can only describe as a seriously smooth and attractive voice.

Sarastro’s lowest notes are a bit of a stretch for Soloman Howard, but the sheer attractiveness of his voice and presence renders this a minor cavil. I have always thought that Sarastro’s order that Monostatos be beaten doesn’t jibe with his reputation for profound wisdom. In Ms Rourke’s version he says "Be grateful I don’t have you flogged" which can be construed as a figurative rather than actual threat.

If So Young Park doesn’t quite nail the Queen’s first aria, the second one was a gratifying show-stopper. As her daughter, Jacqueline Echols (who impressed ici as Echo in Ariadne on Naxos), is surely the most charming (that word again) of the attractive cast. Her relationship with Mr. Edquist’s Papageno is sharply comedic in a contemporary way with marvelous handling of Ms Rourke’s translation, while her serious moments are touchingly heartfelt. Here is a singer to watch for. Another charmer in the cast is Jasmine Habersham as Papagena, here dressed up as a very strange woodland creature (described as a "ghillie suit").

The capacity audience was notable for its age range (i.e., lots of young people) and was held rapt throughout. The production definitely deserves to be seen elsewhere.

Michael Johnson



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