Lyric Opera finds the magic in Mozart’s score New London – The Connecticut Lyric Opera’s production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” Friday night neatly presented the 200-year-old paradox of this opera:
It was entertaining, fast-paced and often beautiful. And it was often distractingly odd and self-conscious in its staging and message.
The production at the Garde Arts Center was the fourth and final of its run, after stagings in New Britain, Middletown and Waterbury, and perhaps nothing was so striking Saturday as the air of success surrounding this homegrown opera company. Just four years ago, Lyric Opera was performing for about 250 people in a church down State Street. Friday, about 800 noisy and appreciative audience members filled the city’s main theater for a large-scale production featuring 60 singers and musicians [….]
The strengths of the production were many. It was the finest orchestral performance yet by Music Director Adrian Sylveen, especially in Mozart’s amazing fugal sections of the final scene (here’s where the air of magic was found). Spotlighted in the 20-piece orchestra were flutist Jill Maurer-Davis in the musical title role and percussionist Connie Coghlan on the work’s signature glockenspiel.
The 20-voice chorus, greatly enhanced by soprano Jurate Svedaite’s voice students (many from Connecticut College), was the strongest in any local opera production. And key principals – soprano Svedaite as Pamina, tenor Michael Wade Lee as Tamino, baritone Matthew Gamble as Papageno, Liane Grasso as the Queen of the Night, tenor Daniel Juarez as Monastatos, and Eden Casteel, Jennifer Marshall and Brook Larimer as the Three Ladies – carried the music and action with aplomb.
Notable were Gamble’s goofy bird-man Papageno, solidly sung and acted with deft comic timing; Grasso’s hair-raising, death-or-glory attack of “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart”); Juarez’s nicely melodramatic bad guy; and the beautifully paired voices of Svedaite and Lee in both their duets and arias.
The production teemed with the elegance of Mozart’s vocal writing, lively ensembles (the several quintets were the musical high points, a tribute to Sylveen) and laughs galore. The use of children as the wild animals of the forest induced smiles, and the three young singers cast as the Three Spirits projected the requisite innocence and freshness.
Like the Three Ladies who conquer the giant snake to open “The Magic Flute,” Lyric Opera itself did a bit of dragon-slaying, with a healthy dose of youthful energy onstage and a terrific orchestral performance in the pit.