There is a scene where the character Prince Tamino sings the praises of the tone of his magic flute in Opera Theatre of Saint Louis production of the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart classic opera. The same can be said for the voice of Joshua Blue, the singer who embodied the role.
Seeing his perfectly shaped afro emerge on stage as the magnificent voices of the three ladies signal the beginning of The Magic Flute was a joy. That feeling transcends to utter delight when one hears the richness of his voice and his impressive range – and watches the tenor handle the musical intricacy with precision with an overload of charm. The former Gerdine Young Artist and former Gadden Festival Artist displayed his potential for greatness as he carried the weight of the production on his broad shoulders – with plenty of support from an immensely talented ensemble.
Blue’s performance was on brand for Opera Theatre Saint Louis’ production of the masterpiece, which continues through June 26. From the dramatically beautiful music of the overture conducted by Rory Macdonald, it was clear that the audience should prepare themselves to be blown away by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis presentation that opened Saturday night at The Loretto-Hilton.
The production was a milestone of sorts for OTSL, taking place nearly 40 years to the day that OTSL first performed the masterpiece. The company’s staging reinforced the notion that The Magic Flute is the perfect introduction to the art form. More than 230 years after Mozart’s original staging, the themes of the story ring especially relevant. The comedy, drama, emotional turmoil, spirituality, love story and even the importance of nature woven into the format of a fairy tale will keep even the most novice opera patron engaged for the entire performance.
Mozart leaves little margin for error in his composition. Much is required from both the orchestra and the ensemble of singers. His chord progressions and key changes demand artists of the highest caliber, written as if he expected the musicians and singers to be on par with his own level of genius. Opera Theatre of Saint Louis enlisted a team that was up for the challenge. Along with Blue, Jeni Houser as The Queen of the Night, Erica Petrocelli as Pamina, the ensembles of the three ladies (Meghan Kasssanders, Meridian Prall and Stephanie Sanchez), the three spirits (Hallie Schmidt, Daniela Magura, and Maria Consamus) and Angel Riley as Papagena are among the best in show among the 20-plus in the solid cast.
Houser’s command of the unrelenting high notes for the famous ‘Der Holle Rache’ aria, more commonly referred to as the Queen of the Night aria, elicited a warranted applause that spilled over into the next scene. The perfect vocal blend of Blue and Petrocelli were also among the musical highlights.
The value added by the production team of The Magic Flute cannot be overstated. Christopher Akerlind illuminates – all pun intended – the power of stellar lighting design in setting the tone and ushering in dramatic effect from one scene to the next. And with the unfortunate exception of the Queen of the Night, costume designer Jessica Jahn nailed the costumes.
Set designer Ryan Howell creates an ambidextrous scenic experience that easily transitions between settings. Director Omer Ben Seadia creates a pace that makes the two hours and forty-five minutes fly by. She also curates the chemistry to create an experience that authentically displays each range of the many emotions covered over the course of the opera.
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis continues its production of The Magic Flute through June 26 at the Loretto-Hilton on the campus of Webster University. For tickets or additional information, visit www.opera-stl.org.