• Opera Review: Community delivers delightful 'Magic Flute'
    By Jim Lowe
     | September 03,2012
    Jim Lowe/Staff photo

    Alex Vithum was Papageno and Miranda Scott played Pamina in the Echo Valley Community Arts production of “The Magic Flute.”

    MONTPELIER — “The Magic Flute,” though truly one of the great operas, is a bit of a comic book affair, for it is beautiful fantasy — set to some of the most sublime music of all time.

    Echo Valley Community Arts closed a production of Mozart's popular opera Saturday at Christ Episcopal Church that was pretty amazing.

    Community opera is fraught with danger as it frequently doesn't sound all that good in the hands of professionals. Saturday's performance, which did include a couple of young professionals, certainly couldn't compete with any of the area's professional companies — but it was a delight!

    “The Magic Flute” was written for the vaudeville stage, rather than an opera house. That doesn't mean that the music is any less sophisticated than his “Don Giovanni,” but it was written for broad entertainment and in the native language of German. Echo Valley appropriately performed the work in English.

    Prince Tamino, finding himself in a strange land, is attacked by a monster and passes. Although he is saved by the seemingly nice Three Ladies, he awakens to the arrival of the happy-go-lucky but lonely bird-catcher Papageno, who takes credit for the kill. The Ladies return, padlock Papageno's lying mouth, and their boss follows.

    The Queen of the Night offers Tamino the hand of her daughter, Princess Pamina, if he will rescue her from the evil Sirastro. Tamino and Papageno, his chattering mouth now released, head off on their quest.

    From there, it gets pretty complicated. It turns out that Sirastro isn't so evil after all, and is protecting Pamina, who has become a pawn in a power struggle. But, Pamina is being guarded by Sirastro's mignon Monostatos, who wants her for himself. Of course, as only in fairytales, Tamino gets his Pamina, and Papageno his Papageno, and they live happily ever after.

    Kevin Ginter, a young Vermont tenor beginning a professional career, was a sympathetic and an unusually macho Tamino. Alex Vitzhum, a warm-voiced baritone studying voice at Bard, was a charming and funny as the reluctant Papageno. Miranda Scott, a light-voiced lyrical soprano studying acting at Hartt, was most sympathetic as the deeply passionate Pamina.

    Bass Stephen Falbel sang beautifully and lyrically as Sirastro, while soprano Ellen Blachly was a fiery Queen of the Night, nailing some amazing high notes. (She really should return to singing regularly.) Still, the most consistent singer was tenor Justin Rowe, who delivered a beautifully lyrical performance as Monastatos.

    The singers were backed up by an amazingly consistent and accurate instrumental ensemble, conducted by Diane Holland, made up local professionals and a few high school students. They sounded great.

    Directed by Naomi Flanders, the storytelling, save for a few odd choices (how could Tamino play the flute by waving it in the air?), was charming and great fun. Artist Nicholas Hecht's gorgeous storybook set completed magic.

    Flanders and her Echo Valley Community Arts are to be congratulated on creating a thoroughly — and often beautiful — “Magic Flute.”

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