“The Magic Flute,” which is being presented by Opera Saratoga in repertory through June 28, is a remarkable opera in all ways.
To begin with, it contains a score by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that is as sublime as it is complex and as beautiful as it is emotional.
Not only is the music magical, it is used to support and elevate what appears a simple fairy-tale story to make profound comments on the meaning of life and the path to happiness.
Adding to the fun is the opera contains plenty of comedy making it an experience that is almost guaranteed to satisfy audiences.
It is certainly the case with the pleasant Opera Saratoga production playing at SPAC in the Little Theatre on the grounds of the Saratoga State Park. This is a production that is well-sung, attractive and fun. Though not as enlightening as it might be, it is an enjoyable entertainment.
Under the direction of Nelson Sheeley the first act starts as enormously playful, filled with humor and exaggerated characterizations. It establishes the frailty of the central characters making their flaws endearingly human. Sheeley also adds some jokes and comic dialogue to Emanuel Schikandeder’s original libretto to contemporize and make the material comfortable.
The lightheartedness is so prevalent that the comic character Papageno dominates the show. He’s delightfully played by Kyle Pfortmiller, a marvelous baritone with great comic sensibilities.
As the journey becomes darker the mood becomes more serious, which continues after the intermission of the 2 hour, forty-five minute production. In the second segment the hero Tamino (Vale Rideout) must rescue Pamina (Sarah Beckham-Turner), the captured daughter of the Queen of the Night, by going through fearful trials in which they prove their character and earn each other’s love. The pair does well vocally as their heartfelt vocals have us accept their passion for each other, even if their onstage chemistry does not support those emotions.
Several supporting roles are noteworthy. Brad Raymond created such a despicable villain character with Monostatos that the audience gave the performer praise by hissing the character at the curtain call.
Of all the featured characters the Queen of the Night probably has the least stage time, but the role includes two memorable numbers. What better tribute for Natalie Polito that her arias received the largest ovations of the evenings?
One might reasonably regret that, because of space, the work is given a small scale production at the Spa Little Theatre. However, the fine work of set designer Garett E. Wilson, Alan Michael Smith’s costumes and Jeff Bruckerhoff’s lighting keep those regrets to a minimum.
“The Magic Flute” is a practical production that is apparently without lofty ambitions. And, because of space and budget considerations Opera Saratoga’s production must be respected for what it is – a well-sung, attractive work of a brilliant opera. Which is still a very good experience.
Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.
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