Despite a week of power outages and an un-expected heat wave which rendered humid camping like conditions for guest -housed artists and a four day shut down on set building, Ash Lawn Operas production of THE MAGIC FLUTE turned out to be a stunning testament to the high level of artistic merit the company strives to achieve. It was magical, entertaining and frankly AWE -SOME!
It was especially fun for me as I had spent hours interviewing staff and artists, hanging out at rehearsals, trying on costumes and even hosting two of the imported orchestra’s musicians that needed emergency shelter due to a lack of electricity and running water at their host home. (Click here to link to the story I wrote for C-VILLE.)
The Magritte inspired, John Pollard designed, set of giant hanging frames and light poles entwined with vines was stunning under Stevie Agnew’s flawless lighting and well used by Stage Director, Dan Ragazzi, who created dynamic visuals and the occasional intended joke through adept blocking.
Nuria Carrasco’s fantastical costume designs served to dress the otherwise sparse stage and allow the audience to focus on the performers via lots of sparkly details. Most stunning was her creation for Emily Hindrich’s Queen of the Night, a half black and half white gown made as though halves of two different dresses were sewn together. The visual result was one person walking onto the set and another walking off. It was totally cool and completely fitting for Hindrich’s INCREDIBLE singing. The audience was boondoggled by her amazing ability to sing that crazy coloratura trill and staccato, nailing the high notes with a power equal to a train whistle ( but 1000 times prettier) and giving out equally strong hot chocolatey lower ones. She ROCKED the house illiciting loud applause and bravo cheers from the audience. (I heard at least a dozen people marveling over her performance as I left the theater.- Way to go Em!)
Margie Jervis’ clever Wild Animal Costumes worn by local children added to the fantastical feel reminiscent of Julie Taymore’s Lion King animals but on a black and white and much smaller scale. Particularly marvelous were the two man rhino and the birds.
Other highlight performances were : Jennifer Zetlan as Pamina – her singing voice as clear and true as Pamina’s love for Tamino, Kevin Thompson’s stately Sarastro, David Portillo’s lovely tenor Tomino, and yummiliscious Craig Verm’s Papageno. Verm so obviously loves what he does for a living it simply exudes that energy in his performance making it clear that he is not only a fabulous singer but a crowd pleasing actor as well. He could easily have a career in film, television, radio (but that would be a waste of his good looks) or stage (dramatic or musical theater).
Other notable performances were David Portillo’s steadfast Tamino, Jennifer Zetlan’s pure -voiced and well acted Pamina, Kevin Thompson’s booming bass and regal presence as Sarastro and Emma-Grace Dunbar’s as Papagena. I must admit, I was jealous (along with every other woman and gay man in the audience) of Dunbar who got to wear the charmingly flirtatious costume I tried on during my story research PLUS she got to sing a duet with Verm with his arm around her waist. “Sigh.” Well that is all part of the joy of fantasy after all.
THE MAGIC FLUTE was so well done that I find myself actually looking forward to ALO’s production of THE MUSIC MAN (not my favorite musical) which opens July 29th at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville.
For more info click here.
Me in Nuria Carrasco’s costume design for Papagena in Ash Lawn Opera’s production of THE MAGIC FLUTE.