Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Using the stage at the New Vic as a blank canvas, the team responsible for Westmont’s production of The Magic Flute painted a vivid and memorable moving picture full of delightful details and striking images. Delivered in an accessible English translation, Mozart’s classic opera made a joyous and profound vehicle for the talented cast. The nonstop inventiveness of the show’s director, John Blondell, gained in excitement and resonance through tight integration with Yuri Okahana’s amazing set, the impressive lighting of designer Jonathan Hicks, and the raucous choreography of Victoria Finlayson. Among many excellent performances, a few stood out. John Butler consistently drew the night’s biggest laughs as the bumbling, fearful everyman Papageno. Michelle Vera delivered a pair of magnificent arias as the Queen of the Night, and Fitz Mora fully inhabited the central role of Prince Tamino. As Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night and Tamino’s beloved, Jessica Lingua gave the evening’s most layered performance, adding significant acting skills to complement her wonderful voice.
Although much of the material was played for laughs — Jared Huff was hilarious as an unruly, nearly feral Monostatos — through the staging and the majesty of the music, this production retained an edge of darkly speculative wonder. Without the timely interventions of the delightful Three Ladies — Nina Fox, Lillyana Huerta, and Alyssa Mae Tumlos — all kinds of mayhem would have taken place within the borders of the cult-like community ruled by Sarastro (Nate Sirovatka). The Westmont Theater program, with the invaluable collaboration of maestro Michael Shasberger and his musicians, has discovered a bright new vein of creative inquiry in these opera productions at the New Vic. Here’s hoping this fabulous and fun annual event becomes a tradition.