Richard G. Epstein
Performing Arts Review:
THE VIRTUAL OPERA'S
MAGIC FLUTE IS MAGIC
My Own Musicianship
Special to the Sentinel-Observer
George M. Cohen
The Silicon Valley Virtual Opera Company's production of Mozart's Die Zauberflote (the Magic Flute) should not be missed. It is playing at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Emporium through next Sunday.
There is nothing to criticize in this marvelous production. The sets by the Metropolitan's Maurice Winston were full of color and humor and the costumes by Academy Award winner Florence Flaubert evoked a distant, mystical past, as appropriate for the Temple of Sarastro, the man of light and wisdom.
I chose the role of Papageno, replacing Thomas Evans, who usually plays that role. The rest of the cast consisted of Silicon Valley Virtual Opera regulars, all stellar performers, including Andrew Williams as Tamino, Ellen Flowers as Pamina, the ominous Clark Gillian as Monostatos and the electrifying Juanda Jackson as the Queen of the Night.
James Lavin and the Silicon Valley Virtual Opera orchestra were flawless. I did take slight exception to the overly melodramatic rendition of the overture, which detracted, in this observer's opinion, from the dramatic tension that is the key to the opening dragon slaying scene. Otherwise, the playing was sharp, joyous and full of life.
The audience responded with polite applause after almost every aria, but they reserved their standing ovations for my own solo performances as Papageno.
My rendition of "Der Vogelfanger bin ich ja" (Yes, I am the bird catcher) in the First Act brought the audience to their feet with enthusiastic applause and bravos. My singing brought out the pathos of being a lowly bird catcher, not the sort of profession that one would aspire to, and I think there was enough sadness in my voice, because of my unmarried state, to bring a tear or two to the eye.
The greatest single performance of the entire opera was my rendition of "Ein Madchen oder Weibchen wunscht Papageno sich" (A sweetheart or a little wife is Papageno's wish!) in the Second Act. Not only did this bring the audience to their feet, but they showered the stage with flowers and several proposals of marriage, of all things. The audience was clearly moved by the resonant richness of my voice, which echoed to the rafters of the Opera House, an exact replica of La Scala in Milan. Maestro Lavin had to come up to the stage, begging the audience to return to their seats. I think my glockenspiel playing, along with the extraordinary pathos, not to mention the range, of my vocal talents, made my rendition of this particular aria irresistible.
There was also enthusiastic applause after my duet with Nora White, who played Papagena, in our little "Pa-pa-pa" number.
Although space does not permit devoting too much space to individual performances, I must mention the soul-piercing singing of Juanda Jackson as the Queen of the Night. Her incredible rendition of "Der Holle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" (The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart) cut through me like a knife.
All in all, Die Zauberflote is a delight for the ear and for the eye. I would urge all serious opera fans to get down to the Virtual Reality Emporium before Die Zauberflote closes next weekend.
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