When we first wrote about Abridged Opera, it was just over a year ago as the performance group was staging a gallant and fun production of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte. Not only has the company come a long way since that time, but their audience has grown in leaps and bounds. Sunday’s spectacular staging of another Mozart work, The Magic Flute, packed the Kordazone Theatre and proved that opera still has its place in 2018 pop culture.
Filled with Mozart’s glorious music, The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) is one of the greatest and most popular operas ever written. It explores the search for true love and wisdom as royal prince Tamino and bird-catcher Papageno must overcome a series of trials in order to rescue Pamina from the grasp of the manipulative Queen of the Night. It’s a celebration of true love conquering all and director Tracey Atin brilliantly transported us into that enchanted world.
The music was performed live under the masterful baton of Windsor Symphony Orchestra Associate Conductor Peter Wiebe. Somehow, they were able to pack in two violins, one viola, a cello, piano and a flute, as well as 11 chorus singers, a cast of 12 and a sold-out house, into the modest theatre – the Kordazone never felt so packed. The live music really makes a difference in shows like this, bringing the story and songs to life, and in this case, giving the extremely capable cast a solid foundation.
There wasn’t a low point in the show. It was lively, colourful and easy to watch, even with subtitles during the German lyrics. Jorge Trabanco was brilliant as Papageno. He led the story with his comedic wit and really brought the character to life. When he joined Kaitlyn Clifford’s Papagena for their passionate duet, it was electrifying – so much so that I kept singing their names (‘Pa-Pa-Pa Papageno’) all night, well after the show was over.
The vocal highlights of the opera came from Brianna DeSantis, who’s two songs as Queen of the Night were stunning and captivating. She received cheers during the aria Hell’s Vengeance Boils in My Heart (Der Hölle Rache), which she sang with grand passion and fury. The “Spirits” (Josh Zajac, Julia Martin and Braylon Belanger) were also fun to watch as they appeared in various scenes, sometimes adding to the vocals and other times moving the story along – at one point, one of them made fun of the Queen of the Night’s aria by mimicking the over-the-top ‘ah-ah-ah’ vocals – it was the best moment of the show.
Also notable was Conlan Gassi, who was steadfast as Prince Tamino in his quest to rescue and wed Bethany Hynes’ adorable take on Pamina. The three Ladys (Naomi Eberhard, Christine Turingia and Erin Armstrong-Dickau) were also great at agitating Tamino and Papageno, and finally, Max Arvidsson gave Sarastro a very pompous and priestly approach, making his evil ways seem almost second nature.
One of the best things about Abridged Opera is its sense of humour. This time they tossed in a few soft pop culture references throughout the show, including scenes with a Tim Horton’s coffee cup and a couple Queen ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ moments. The whole show was presented with modern references to cell phones and social media. The only opportunity they missed was taking a jab at how similar O Canada is to March of the Priests, the opening number in the second set. Papageno would have, no doubt, loved to wave a glorious maple leaf during the march.
Abridged Opera’s The Magic Flute was a wonderful escape into the world of opera and a great afternoon of entertainment. The costumes were loud and luscious, the music was sublime and the actors/singers were truly amazing. Windsor is fortunate to have the talented core of people behind Abridged Opera – if The Magic Flute is any indication, they are keeping the artform alive and thriving in the city.