The Magic Flute

One of the best things about this Lyric Opera production of The Magic Flute, which was first presented ten years ago, is its straightforward fairy-tale charm. With a sharp, childlike imagination, German stage director August Everding (with an assist from the Lyric’s own Matthew Lata) has laid out a rich pageant of beguiling theatrical flourishes: the Three Genii’s spangled wooden boat sails across the backdrop sky, lions and rhinos jig, the Queen of the Night sports a bloodred fright wig. The storybook sets (by Jšrg Zimmermann) are simple yet witty, complementing the blend of naivete and sophistication in Mozart’s score. What makes this revival, which runs till the end of January, even more noteworthy is the return of maestro Marek Janowski. A veteran Mozartean, Janowski knows well how to pace and delve into the depths of this opera. He (and we) should be happy with the cast assembled by the Lyric, one of the best (and most youthful) any major opera house could round up for a Flute in the mid-90s. Playing the Queen of the Night, a taxing role with two famously acrobatic arias, is the Turkish coloratura soprano Yelda Kodalli (in her American debut), whose marvelously agile voice and unerring delivery have already earned her a reputation as a queen for our times. The target of her venomous outbursts, the high priest Sarastro, is sung by Franz-Josef Selig, a German bass also new to the American operatic stage but already known for his dignified, compassionate portrayal of this character (Kurt Moll will take over the role in January). As Tamino and Pamina–whose love is at the center of this emotional tug-of-war between a righteous father and a vengeful mother–American tenor Frank Lopardo and Italian soprano Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz are nicely paired, both in looks and in voice. The burly-voiced baritone Olaf BŠr, another German in his American operatic debut, is a remarkable Papageno, subtly comical and sympathetic but not at all a clown; his Papagena is played by soprano Robin Blitch, a member of Lyric’s Center for American Artists. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 312-332-2244.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Dan Rest.