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Enchanted Animals, Padlocked Lips

By Stephen Brookes
The Washington Post  •  August  20, 2007

The Wolf Trap Opera Company has an abiding affection for "The Magic Flute," Mozart's last opera and one of his most popular. The company has put it on six times over the years, and little wonder -- with its enchanted animals, kidnapped princess, padlocked lips and so on, it's a perfect fairy tale for a summer evening. Wolf Trap made things even more magical over the weekend by pricing lawn seats at only $8; the view may not have been perfect, but the music upstaged the acting anyway. And to lie on your back, staring up into the stars while the Queen of the Night unleashes her fury? A bargain at any price.

wolftrap_nightWEB.jpgDirector Stanley M. Garner rightly tried to downplay the more arcane aspects of the opera (Mozart filled it with references to Freemasonry, most of them lost on contemporary audiences) and focus on the fantastical. But it was still a rather measured, low-key production, not nearly as playful as it could have been, despite a fine comic turn by baritone Liam Bonner -- who overcame his pink tights and lime-green man-bag to turn in a funny, free-spirited performance as the bird-catcher Papageno.

Conductor Robert Wood kept the music moving at an energetic clip, though, and soprano Rebekah Camm brought both brainpower and an unfailingly gorgeous voice to the role of Pamina, lighting up the stage every time she appeared. Things dimmed a bit, though, whenever tenor Beau Gibson appeared as the noble Tamino; while he sang well enough, he ambled through his various challenges with all the dramatic punch of a quart of milk. But South African soprano Bronwen Forbay showed what a brilliant Queen of the Night she can be, nailing the nerve-racking aria "Der Hoelle Rache" with delectable ferocity -- and proving that Mozart's strange magic lives on.

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2007 at 09:46AM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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