By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Presented by West Bay Opera
At the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA; 650-424-9999
Conducted by José Luis Moscovich
Directed by Daniel Helfgot

Reviewed by Judy Richter

West Bay Opera is entering its 50th season in fine fashion with a thoroughly delightful production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), sung in German with English supertitles. From the well executed, nicely nuanced overture, conducted by José Luis Moscovich, and outstanding musical values to the imaginative stage direction by Daniel Helfgot, this is a production of which the regional company can be justly proud.

As is the custom at WBO, nearly all of the principal roles are double-cast. The reviewed cast was scheduled Oct. 14, 16 and 22. The other cast sang the alternate three days. Almost all off the reviewed singers are both talented and polished. Perhaps the most outstanding among these young professionals is bass Matthew Treviño as Sarastro, the high priest, displaying both dignified stage presence and solid low notes. Baritone Igor Vieira is endearing as Papageno, the garrulous bird catcher. Also noteworthy are soprano Sarah Viola as Pamina, soprano Patrycja Poluchowicz as Papagena, tenor Christopher Fernandez as Monostatos and bass John Minágro as the Speaker of the Temple.

Tenor Brian Thorsett as Tamino, a prince, is a fine singer, but his stage presence doesn't project the image of a prince. On the other hand, Marta Johansen has a royal presence as the Queen of the Night, but she had some problems with projection and coloratura in her first aria, Zum leiden bin ich auserkoren, as if she were indisposed, but she acquitted herself well on her more difficult second aria, Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen. The three boys -- Ian Rosenfield, Zachary Freier-Harrison and Jordan King -- blend well, as do the two priests and guards, Steve Grabe and Taber Dullea. Likewise, the three ladies, Lara Bruckmann, Julia Ulehla and Lisa Houston, sing and blend well.

Costume designer Kate Irvine Mills outfits them in black, high-heeled ankle boots with tight-fitting purple dresses with slit skirts and wing-like shoulders. The Queen of the Night also wears purple, while Pamina and Tamino are in white, and people of the temple -- including the fine chorus -- wear red robes. Papageno and Papagena are in earth tones. Jean-François Revon's set design is simple, allowing for easy scene changes, complemented by Chad Bonaker's lighting.

During intermission on opening night, WBO called attention to a bench in the Lucie Stern Center courtyard dedicated to the company's founders, the late Henry and Maria Holt. Thus the production is a fitting way to honor the company's past and to celebrate its present and future, both of which appear artistically bright.

For more information, see the West Bay Opera home page.

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21 Oct 2005