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Subject: In Series(Opera & More) lives up to its name with perfect pocket opera MAGIC FLUTE (9-24-17)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 30 Sep 2017 08:37:11 -0400
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> 
>     The IN SERIES of Washington opened it's season last weekend with a new production of THE MAGIC FLUTE which sadly was NOT reviewed by the Washington Post, and will be closing already with one more matinee this Sunday at, of all places, The Scottish Rite Temple of Washington (http://www.inseries.org ). I must disclose that I sit on the board of this wonderful organization, but also have to say that this budget pocket opera is packed with fab singing, a superb English (and very funny) libretto by the brilliant Nick Olcott and fills the superb sightline space with an orchestra of 10 musicians led by Stanley Thurston.
> 
> 
>     Director-Rick Davis
> 
>     Sets-Jonathan Dahm Robertson
> 
>     Costumes-Donna Breslin
> 
> 
>     Tamino-Joe Haughton
> 
>     Pamina-Emily Casey
> 
>     Queen of the Night-Kelly Curtin
> 
>     Papageno-Daren Jackson
> 
>     Sarastro-Jim Williams
> 
>     Papagena-Suzanne Lane
> 
>     Monostatos-Christian Rohde
> 
>     Three Ladies-Cara Gonzalez, Katherine Fili, Elizabeth Mondragon
> 
>     Three Spirits-Suzanne Lane,Rebecca Henry,Arya Balian
> 
>     Speaker-Kenneth Derby
> 
>     Two Guards/Priests-Jonathan Hoffman, Garrett Matthews
> 
> 
>     The program explained the setting was 1937 during the WPA(Works Progress Admin) Federal Music Project which allowed for superb Depression costumes that looked awesome on the three ladies with the spirits in Mozartean hats and velvet servant coats with white neckpieces over the Depression-wear. the premise here given in a short spoken preamble was that the singers were gathering to perform Il Trovatore (which they were humming as they entered!) and when they started the opera, found out it was Flute! It was funny as they scrambled to pull together the various costumes, which were haphazard at first but improved as the opera moved onwards and they had time to pull more from backstage stores!  The amphitheater seating for about 350 offers a super acoustic with a small proscenium stage behind a curtain at the rear and a large carpeted half-circle area in front where the orchestra as seated to one side.  Much of the action took place closer to us in the semi-circle area. there was a small three-step up platform at the center behind the curtain and in the first act a huge backdrop (from the Temple's ceremonies!) of a very lush green glen which changed to a Masonic-like Mesopotamian feel drop with ziggurats, columns and more for Act II. The monster attacking Tamino was three large stage floodlights held by the performers who draped a velvet cloak over them. It was brillant as they had only seconds to come up with this when they discovered the opera change. Tamino was in an aluminum foil laurel with a tunic from last year's Oberon done by the In Series!! the three ladies had Depression-style Spanish outfits (for the Trovatore!) with polka-dots and fringed shawls. 
> 
>     It's hard to write down funny lines in the dar, but every time Mr. Olcott comes up with a new translation here in DC, I am often in hysterics and so enjoying an often worn opera in a totally new light. One of my fave early lines from the 3 ladies was:
> 
>     "I must admit, a handsome lad. A downright hunk, this Galahad!" 
> 
>     Papageno sported a makeshift burlap-like tunic with several feathers glued on as well as a floppy hat with big feather. When he went to blow his pipe, it was gone and he motioned offstage so someone quickly brought it to him (again, the change of opera messing everyone up). the lock for his mouth was a quickly found pacifier.
> 
>     I have known Joe Haughton for years and while his day job is singing for the military, it seems this guy can manage almost anything from Fidelio to Tamino and he excelled here throughout the entire performance with his super-sweet tenor.
> 
>     The Queen arrived in a dark blue gown with glittery black cape braceleted on each arm, huge necklace and a foil fan-like headpiece.
> 
>     Ms. Curtain managed every high note and all the coloratura with ease.
> 
>     Papageno's bells were a small marching-band xylophone and when we switched to Monostatos' scene we were met by a human being, thankfully not blackfaced, but with sunken dark eyes in black pants, long tunic, a long caped cloak and Elizabethan floppy hat. Mr. Rohde was not made to look stupid as much as lustful. 
> 
>     Our princess tiara-ed Pamina was in a purple long gown with some gold appliques, tulle underneath and flat ballet shoes as if she had just come from teenage ballet class or better yet, from senior prom wearing a truly bad dress. From the spoken dialogue it is clear she is NOT a captive and has chosen to come here, but is upset with the approaches Monostatos is making. 
> 
>     When Tamino arrives on scene there are no doors to the Temple, indeed just the backdrop remained and a door seemed needed, but was not a disaster. The Speaker was in a large sequined cloth headdress with black cape over flowing red floor length gown with balloon sleeves. Once again when Pamina confronts Sarastro we understand she has run away from her mother and is not being held against her will.
> 
>     I always detest the scene with Tamino playing his flute with the animals as it comes off quite fake and cheap. Here we had the spirits holding some Origami birds on sticks and one person coming in with a huge fake fur animal hide draped over them but no head on it and using a hand under the fur like a claw; it was not much better than what you get at any major house!
> 
>     Sarastro was in a Masonic-style red fez with glitter gold star and a shimmering greenish robe with huge gold necklace and gold medallion belt (it looked like the thing they give heavyweight champions!) and his choir folk were made up of the ladies, spirits and two men, so just four women and the two men which was enough to fill the small space.
> 
> 
>     Act II gave is the ziggurat filled backdrop with a large pile of what really look like thrown away furniture at the middle covered with a red dropcloth. I loved the way Sarastro explained in depth the story of Isis and Osiris and the god Sethi and why their society exists; it gave so much more meaning to the story. My only real complaint about the singing  was that Mr. Williams is clearly a baritone and lacks the hefty bottom required for this role. Surely one can find a decent bass?? (discussion for next board meeting?)
> 
>     For her second aria the Queen was even mor impressive with every note spot on and the audience going bananas with applause.
> 
>     Again some wonderful rhyming lines for Papageno, "We wouldn't be just man and wife, we'd be equal partners for life," gave a more gender equality approach to this work.
> 
>     the fire and water ordeal can be lame as well, but here there were five ticks with orange and red cloths waved about pompom like for fire, which Monastatos chased off with a fire extinguisher(!!), and a large blue cloth waved across the stage for water.
> 
> 
>     With single ticket prices like this, and subscriptions for even less, you can't afford NOT to go!
> 
>     General: $47
> 
>     Senior: $44
> 
>     Young Professional (ID req.): $25
> 
>     Youth/Student: $23
> 
> 
> 
> 
>     ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC
> 

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