ArtsBeat

Gorgeous voices, witty direction make ‘Flute’ magical

Opera Idaho opened its main stage season with a sold-out performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” at The Egyptian Theatre on Friday night. The audience included the usual opera fans and supporters, as well as several families with children — a different mix than the norm, truly showing that this production is one of Opera Idaho’s most accessible.

With Ted and Deena Puffer’s English translation, the opera’s complicated relationships, themes and word play become clear.

Benjamin Spierman’s savvy direction highlighted Mozart’s clever send-ups of the operas of his day, the elements of Freemasonry ritual and ideas, and the battle-of-the-sexes undertow with humor and wit. He also used the limited Egyptian stage space well, with a nicely curated chorus that made transitions flow better.

Grammy winner Thomas Glenn’s clear and soaring performance blazed the way for a luscious night vocalizing. He was a captivating Tamino, with all the princely air and stalwart charm you could want. He was a nice foil for Ryan Bede’s Papageno — the comic man/bird who just wants a good glass of wine and wife. Bede’s bird-like makeup and manor fed into the comedy, aided by his strong baritone and expressive physicality.

He was especially nice in his duet with spitfire soprano Jenni Litster as Papagena. She was well worth waiting until late in the second act for her entrance. Both shared Danyale Cook’s colorful and fun makeup, which added to the hilarity.

Lyric coloratura Julianna Tauschinger-Dempsey made an elegant and touching Pamina with a deeply rich performance of her arias, especially her lovely “Ah, I feel it, it is vanished,’’ when she laments the loss of love and her dire situation.

And all hail The Queen of the Night Lindsay Russell, who gave a fearsome performance as Pamina’s evil mother, filled with extreme confidence as she nailed her remarkable high Fs.

The queen’s ladies — Idaho-raised Jena Carpenter and resident company member Nadamayí Shanti, both sopranos, and Boise-based mezzo Michele Detwiler — were hysterical as the Valkyrie-like Three Ladies.

Bass baritone Konstantin Kvach returned to Boise as the solemn Sarastro, and Jonathan Hill, also in the resident company, gave a creepy and wacky turn as the evil Monostatos.

Maestro Steven Crawford pulled double duty, conducting the excellent orchestra gathered for the performance and playing keyboards as the magic bells that Papageno wields. His direction of the orchestra and singers kept the pace steady and highlighted Mozart’s vibrant score.

Set against Boise set designer Shelly Jund’s clever and rustic movable set, the costumes borrowed from Tri-Cities Opera Company in Binghamton, N.Y., really popped.

There’s another chance to see “The Magic Flute” on Sunday. It would be worth the effort to make it.

Opera Idaho’s ‘The Magic Flute’

2:30 p.m. Nov. 1, Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St., Boise. $14.40-$72. 387-1273, operaidaho.org.

Audience comments

Reham Aarti, Boise: It was fantastic, holy cow. I’m still flabbergasted by the Queen of the Night’s voice. They did a really wonderful job.

Raine Saunders, Boise: It thought it was amazing. This is my fourth or fifth time now, and I think their quality is really high. I love the live performance. It’s really special to me to be able to see something like this live. It’s so much better than a recording.

Sandra Schreffler, Boise: The Queen of the Night’s performance gave me tingles. It was just beautiful.

Jack Housley, Boise: This is my first time at an opera and I have to give it to the Queen’s aria. I was like, she totally sang that. And I feel like she’s right in front of me even though we were in the rafters. The makeup and the costumes and the feel — it was awesome.

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