Friday, November 16, 2012

Editor belts praise for opera

by Kelsey Mejlaender, Copy Editor

Opera may not be the default music on everyone’s iPods, but Pacific Lutheran University’s performance of “The Magic Flute” was still a joy to see and hear.

Mozart created the piece near the end of the 18th century, and it includes both spoken dialogue and singing.

The plot follows Prince Tamino, played by senior John Marzano, and his quest to rescue his love Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night, portrayed by sophomore Elizabeth Binkley. To assist him in the rescue, Tamino uses a magic flute that has the power to “change men’s hearts.”

Music is appropriately the primary narrative mode. The University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jeffrey Bell-Hanson, performed with a natural fluidity that provided a strong emotional context.
Senior Mary Ardington, who played the actual music for Tamino’s magic flute, said, “I love Mozart. I love classical style.” The style certainly fit the fantastical and mythic mood of the play, as did other aspects of the performance.

The sets were simple, but elegant. Five painted panels with three sides enabled the backgrounds to alternate between rocky wilderness, forest and pillars.

A screen was also hung above the stage. Most often, it was used to display the lyrics as the performers sang so the audience could follow along, but it also showed pictures that were thematically relevant and even a clip of the protagonist running through a forest to preface his actual emergence on stage.

Comic relief was a strong element of the play and there were countless allusions to modern material. In one such case, Tamino’s sidekick Birdman Papageno, played by Julian Reisenthel, lamented that if he could not find love, all he would have was his subscription to “playbird magazine.”

Papageno later began singing in German for a few lines — the original language of the opera — then shouted “nein, nein” and requested English. The screen projecting his German lyrics then displayed an apology and explained Google Translate was “activating.”

The opera’s drama was best expressed by the exceptional performance of PLU alum Amy van Mechelen as Queen of the Night. Her elaborate make-up and costume combined with her powerful singing and stage presence allowed her to captivate the audience and set the tone whenever she appeared.

Though the play ran well past the promised two-hour time range, the audience did not grow restless. Oftentimes, actors would enter a scene by walking down the aisles of audience seating, really personalizing the performance.

The dialogue was very modern and helped keep everyone’s attention. Though the lyrics were crafted in more dated vernacular, they were easy to comprehend, especially with the assistance of the projector.

Neither the singing nor language inhibited the audience's understanding of the leading figures. Marzano said of his character, Tamino, “he is very unsure about the world that he kind of entered” and that playing “all of those parts with the love, and the confusion, and the nobleness, the bravery makes for a very complex character.”

As should any story, “The Magic Flute” excelled in character development, entertainment value and the balance of comedy and drama.

Editor's note: Many of the roles were played by two actors who alternated nights. The reviewed performance featured the Nov. 8 and Nov. 10 cast.