By Nino Pantano
In his brief life (1756-1791), W. A. Mozart composed countless masterpieces in all genres. His final opera, Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), which premiered in 1791, continues to enchant and delight audiences worldwide.
Tamino, an Egyptian prince, sets out to rescue Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night, from the clutches of Sarastro, the High Priest, with the help of a magic flute. Tamino is accompanied reluctantly by the bird catcher, Papageno, who has received magic bells.
Sarastro is, in reality, beneficent and wise. Both Tamino and Papageno must undergo a series of trials and tribulations to end up with Pamina and Papagena, and the Queen of the Night and her evil cohorts are banished to eternal darkness in a happy ending.
Bensonhurst’s Regina Opera, in its first ever production of this opera, presented it in English. With the help of subtitles, every nuance of this work was understood by the large, enthusiastic audience that filled Regina Hall on Saturday, June 9.
The role of Tamino was sung by Chad Kranak, who sang his lines nobly and heroically with a pure, penetrating tenor. Pamina was sung by soprano Maryam Amatullah-Wali with purity, power and style, and her lament in the second act was especially poignant.
David Tillistrand used his dark baritone to perfection as Papageno, beginning with “ I am a man of widespread fame,” and was a delight from start to finish. His singing of the Papageno duet with his Papagena near the finale was sheer joy.
Basso Jay Gould was truly a “wise and beneficent” Sarastro. He recited his lines with fervor and clarity, and sang his two arias, “O Isis and Osiris” and “Within These Holy Portals,” with a rich and noble, rolling subterranean sound.
The Queen of the Night was given a strong and stunning performance by coloratura soprano Elizabeth Treat, whose singing of “The Wrath of Hell Within my Breast I Cherish” made indelible impact with her stratospheric high notes sung with clarity and ease.
Ray Calderon was a striking Monostatos and his vibrant tenor, exotic persona and acting skills made him outstanding in his portrayal.
Christa Hylton sang and acted the role of Papagena with charm and brio as both the old crone in disguise and the sweetheart. Her singing of the “Pa-pa-pa” duet was sheer bliss. Lisa Flanagan, Elizabeth Mondragon and Heather Roberts were a striking and perfect vocal blend as the First, Second and Third ladies.
Kathryn Cohen, Nicole Leone and Jennie Legary were a precise and praiseworthy trio of spirits, with floating tones and shimmering harmonies.
Saidu Karmo exhibited a dark and noble bass as first priest and second armored man. The “Oz”-type Speaker was James Groff.
The ensemble and chorus were superb; the sets were outstanding from the two white trees in the forest to the scrim with veiled images. The costumes by Julia Cornely were flawless from the ethereal to the flamboyant, a blaze of color and fantasy. The serpent created by Wayne Olsen was a highlight.
The stage direction, with colorful processions down the aisles of Regina Hall, enhanced the concept of virtue banishing evil and light banishing darkness. A large white comet led by the creatures passing onstage was a part of the directorial genius of Linda Lehr.
The 38-piece Regina Orchestra under the baton of Jose Alejandro Guzman gave us a performance to cherish.