Vocalist - Tenor
Acclaim
Mozart's opera doesn't require any translation
Maybe the best thing to say about Tulsa Opera's production of "The Magic Flute" is that it doesn't need surtitles.

Oh, they're there, all right, projected above the stage for easy viewing from all corners of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall. And not for just of the portions of this opera that are sung in German -- the English dialogue is surtitled as well.

But really, it isn't necessary. The clarity of what goes on in this production -- the way Mozart's music is played and sung, the manner in which director Tara Faircloth has staged the action, how the unamplified dialogue is easily heard -- is such that you almost have to remind yourself to look up at the captions.

For all its mystical and Masonic trappings, for all the activity on stage, for all the smoke and flash, thunder and glitter, wild headgear and strange creatures, "The Magic Flute" is a simple story -- the journey of two men to find their true loves. Oh yes, and vanquish evil along the way.

Faircloth, in her company debut as director, has made sure to keep the simplicity of the story paramount, and not let it get lost amid the stagecraft and special effects (as anyone who has seen Julie Taymor's grandiose production will know).

She also emphasizes the inherent comedy in the piece. There are a few anachronistic wisecracks and throwaway lines that are there strictly to raise a chuckle, and the character of Monostatos (played here by Calvin Ellis Lee) is more of a buffoonish bad guy than a dastardly villain, but all this works well in the context Faircloth has created.

Vale Rideout, making his company debut in this production, is superb as the prince Tamino. His voice is strong and supple, full of heroic confidence and yet capable of great delicacy -- his performance of Tamino's aria, "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schon," as his character falls in love at first sight of a picture of Pamina, was perfectly shaded with all the passion and wonder of first love.

Corey McKern, as the happy-go-lucky Papageno, is a genial presence, who sings the part with an ease that goes well with the character's innocence, whether describing his job of catching birds ("Der Vogelfanger bin ich ja") or dreaming about love ("Ein Madchen oder Weibchen").

The leading ladies all seemed troubled by some opening-night jitters. That was understandable from Bronwen Forbay, who took over for Lynette Tapia as the Queen of the Night. Her first act aria, "O zittre nicht, mein lieber sohn," was all over the place, topped by a couple of screeched high notes. However, she sang the signature number, "Der Holle Racht," with infinitely more control, the coloratura fireworks popping bright and clean.

Christine Steyer as Pamina seemed to struggle in her duet with McKern, "Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen," as if she was unsure about to place her voice in relation to his. But that was her only moment of difficulty.

We've heard Amanda Mansheim in concerts and remember her ability to send her voice soaring over orchestra and chorus. So it was a little surprising that she seemed so underpowered Saturday night. Her dialogue was loud and clear; her singing, however, seemed to disappear.

Charles Temkey was an avuncular Sarastro, rather than the foreboding mysterious figure as the character is usually played. Temkey is also more baritone than bass -- in the middle register he sounded great, but reaching the lowest notes his character had to sound was a struggle Temkey rarely, if ever, won.

Tulsa Youth Opera members Christine Price, Karlee Aery and Elizabeth Hays did excellent work as the Three Spirits -- and also got to take one of the more spectacular bows of the evening.
James D. Watts Jr., Tulsa World
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