Opera Ensemble hits high note with Mozart masterpiece

The author of this preview is performing in this opera.

This year, the world celebrates Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 250th birthday. The UAA Opera Ensemble pays homage to Mozart this year with its presentation of “The Magic Flute,” a project tagged by music professor Mari Hahn as the most ambitious project she’s ever produced at UAA. The show will run April 16, 22, and 29 at in Room 150 of the Fine Arts Building.

The Opera Ensemble first announced its plan to stage “The Magic Flute” in October 2005 at the Prince Orlofsky’s Tea Party it hosted. At the tea party, Katya Eddy performed the introductory and most popular of “Magic Flute” arias, the “Queen of the Night.”

The high F notes Eddy sang sounded almost superhuman. At the end of the performance, Hahn announced the future production of “The Magic Flute.”

“It’s an ambitious project for this school,” Hahn said. “The program of this size, the resources that we have, which are really nothing.”

The story line of “The Magic Flute” is complex. Instead of the readily accessible story about star-crossed lovers that is so common in opera, the narrative is allegorical, and contains symbolic references to freemasonry.

At the beginning of the opera, Sarastro, the wise priest of Isis and Osiris, has taken Pamina to the temple to release her from the influence of her mother, the Queen of the Night. The queen induces the young Prince Tamino to go in search of her daughter in order to free her from the power of Sarastro. Tamino accomplishes this end, but becomes the disciple of Sarastro, whose wisdom he has learned to admire. The prince and Pamina are united.

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Each character is made more vibrant by characteristic music assigned to him or her in the opera. Papageno is a comic, folk-singing character. Monostatos is fast and frenzied. Pamina has beautifully lyric lines. She has a conventional operatic style, as does Tamino, the prince.

Hahn said she chose to produce “The Magic Flute” this year because she had students who could sing the most challenging parts.

“I usually go with the voices I have,” Hahn said. “The crucial voices are the queen and the tenors. All other roles are not a problem _” I always have interested students who are eager to do it.”

She said the work also holds sentimental value for her.

“Magic flute has always been one of my favorite pieces,” Hahn said. “I have this old score from my father. He was a tenor. He died when I was 15, and I inherited all his operatic scores. He was playing Tamino.”

You don’t need to understand German to enjoy Opera Ensemble’s version of “Magic Flute.” The dialogs are in English and the music is in German. The Opera Ensemble’s performance will be accompanied by supertitles.

The Opera Ensemble will perform a condensed version of “The Magic Flute.” There will be no chorus numbers; some dialogs are cut and no priests appear in this version. The whole show is about two hours long.

Some students involved in the production said they find it challenging to sing in German.

To compound the problem, Magic Flute is a singspiel (spoken) opera. This means every word is pronounced – as opposed to classical operas, in which hard parts may be slurred over.

“It’s so difficult,” said Jane Park, a second-year music major who plays Pamina. “I stumble over the words before I hit the right note.”

Natasha Masanovic, an assistant professor of German at UAA, said American students find the German phonetics problematic to reproduce.

“My experience as a teacher of German for 13 years now has shown me that the umlauts are the most problematic spot,” she said. “Especially umlaut o and u. The reason is very simple _” they do not exist in the American English language. They do not see the that difference.”

The set is minimal. All the effects – such as the fire, water and a monster – will be done with light. Frank Hardy, the Fine Arts Building manager, specializes in lighting effects and will work on the show.

The costumes came from the University of British Colombia, in Vancouver, Canada.

Hahn said the emphasis is on the singing and acting.

“It’s a school, an educational institution, so I do not believe the production elements are the most important,” she said. ” The educational process is amazing for students _” learning German, working on the diction, interpreting the characters, are much more important than having, say, $10,000 to spend on the show.”