A a lot of people think opera is just weird. But Wolfgang Mozart The magic flute is bizarre even by operatic standards.
Take a conventional quest story – Tamino seeks wisdom through a series of trials – layer a romantic quest – boy (Tamino) seeks/loses/gains a girl (Pamina) – and add Papageno, a feathered comic character who is half bird and half man. Then add a dollop of Freemasonry, add a pound of ancient Egyptian-style “Orientalism,” and insert one of the most difficult coloratura soprano passages in all of Western music, and you have what could be opera the strangest and most delicious of the canon. It also features some of Mozart’s coolest music.
It is therefore no surprise that Eugene Opera once again turns to magic flutewhich has two performances on January 28 and 30 at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.
Back to the strange. The Eugene Opera production will feature a design inspired by the king of the weird himself, the late Edward Gorey.
For the uninitiated, Edward St. John Gorey (1925-2000) was a New York/Cape Cod artist, writer, and illustrator known for his macabre and unsettling line drawings done in the Victorian and Edwardian style. In books with titles such as The Glorious Nosebleed and The hateful couplehe created an alternate universe whose fashionably dressed inhabitants are as creepy as oozing mushrooms.
“It’s an Edward Gorey world,” says director Valerie Rachelle, whose day job is artistic director of Ashland’s Oregon Cabaret Theater, of this production of magic flute. “I like the detail, the energy of black and white. It is a dark, mystical and magical carnival.
The simple, austere sets designed for the show by Joe C. Klug will be complemented by projections by John Park of Eugene’s Harmonic Laboratory. “It all looks like some kind of mausoleum,” says Rachelle. “We’ve made it a world where it’s basically magician versus magician.”
Unlike most classical operas, magic flute – which was written in German – is a hybrid form called to sing, which includes spoken dialogue as well as vocals. In Eugene’s production, the vocals will be in German, with projected English surtitles, with English dialogue, in a new translation by Rachelle herself.
The cast includes tenor Derrek Stark as Tamino, soprano Camille Ortiz as Pamina, baritone Zachary Lenox as Papageno, soprano Melanie Spector as Queen of the Night, bass Andrew Potter as Sarastro, and bass-baritone Benjamin Brady as Sprecher. Andrew Bisantz directs.
Eugene’s Opera The magic flute is at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 28 and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 30 at the Silva Concert Hall at the Hult Center. Tickets cost between $15 and $79 on EugeneOpera.org. The Hult Center requires masks and proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. See HultCenter.org for details.