Three women save Seattle Opera's "Magic Flute"

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Monkey and Griffin, Jacob Lucas photo. Colaraturo Christina Poulitsi (Queen of the Night), Philip Newton photo. Conductor Julia Jones, courtesy Sinfonieorchester Wuppertal

The first words of Mozart's The Magic Flute (at Seattle Opera through May 21st) are a frantic cry for help, "Zur Hilfe, zur Hilfe, sonst bin ich verloren!" It's Tamino, the nominal hero, fleeing a pretty tame-looking Chinatown dragon. On cue, three women--servants of the Queen of the Night--wave their wands and the dragon rolls over dead. Turns out the Queen's daughter, Pamina, has been abducted and she needs Tamino to rescue her from the clutches of the supposedly evil priest Sarastro. But that's literally fake news; Sarastro is "enlightened" (lots of Masonic symbolism) and his vision of love and tolerance end up defeating the vengeful Queen and saving the young lovers. But the Queen of the Night, sung by the Greek coloratura soprano Christina Poulitsi, has the opera's best music and brings down the house, even if she does turn out to be the hard-hearted villain.

The second woman is costume designer Zandra Rhodes, whose colorful birds and fanciful creatures light up the stage. Rhodes, who started as a punk fashion designer and was named a Commander of the British Empire, switched to stage work a decade ago. We've seen this production at McCaw Hall before, in 2011.There's also an endearing subplot involving the bird-catcher Papageno, his bride, Papagena, and their seven fledglings.

The third woman is the British conductor, Julia Jones. whose day job is running the orchestra in Wuppertal, an industrial city the size of Seattle in northern Germany. A Mozart specialist, Jones led the Seattle Symphony Orchestra with great assurance from the first downbeat to the last. And to think that it's taken this long to put a woman in the opera pit. (Yes, Han-Na Chang conducted the SSO from the cello in 2011.)

In a tacked-on ending, Tamino and Pamina renounce Sarastro as well as the Queen of the Night and resolve to make their own way in the world. I don't think Mozart would have approved.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on May 7, 2017 6:00 PM.

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