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MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
OPERA REVIEW
The Magic Flute / Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jacob Thompson and Morgan Harrington in Mozart's Magic Flute

FROTHY FROLICKING AT CINNABAR'S MAGICAL FLUTE

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 11, 2016

Though having just two acts, Mozart’s Opera “The Magic Flute” encompasses a jumbled fairy tale plot with complicated staging and myriad performers in demanding vocal roles. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater took up the arduous challenge of this 1791 work, among Mozart’s last, in a series of performances that opened on the June 10 weekend.

Even with intricate staging, an opera’s success usually rides on achieving a glorious performance of the score and vocal lines, and here Mozart’s composition was surely glorious, as conductor Mary Chun drew from a 12-musican orchestra placed stage right a warmly nuanced reading that never covered the singers. In fact, the singing, in an English translation by Ross Halper, was crystal clear in the intimate 115-seat theater with zero reverberation. Ms. Chun’s tempos were judicious all evening and she sculpted precise attacks and releases. The musical phrases were always supple.

Cinnabar’s annual opera is invariably extravagantly staged and this “Flute” production was no exception. Though using only one set, the wide stage was brilliantly alive with a kaleidoscopic-lit back wall and touches of bright blue and yellow lights (from designer Wayne Hovey) and Lisa Claybaugh’s period costumes fit the actors perfectly. Stage Designer Sharlyn Klein and Stage Director Elly Lichenstein fashioned a theatrical romp that paid homage to the Beatles and had copious references to 1960’s clichés and jargon. The premise for this “magical mystery tour” is the convoluted plot (originally in Egypt) that leads a pro-forma opera
hero (Tamino) and a slapstick bird catcher (Papageno) on a quest for romantic satisfaction, with many false starts, physical trials and comedic predicaments.

This lavish mounting of an opera of exceptional fantasy may not have been to everyone’s taste, as vaudeville and inane humor can easily move attention from the radiant music and slide into absurdity. But the full-house audience Saturday night loved the showy histrionics and the playoff of Las Vegas-style costumes and dance (the three ladies) with the commanding and august personage of Sarastro (bass Richard Mix) and his dutiful and stoic priests.

Well, how was the singing in this hybrid drama (“Singspiel”) that combined spoken words and snippets of arias? On the whole it was convincing and meshed well with the stage action. Tenor Jacob Thompson (Tamino) and Soprano Morgan Harrington (Princess Pamina) had the most lengthy roles, and Mr. Thompson sang with a healthy if never really lyrical voice, and Ms. Harrington’s light spinto voice had ardent charm. Both were often upstaged by the antics of Eugene Walden’s portrayal of the witless but determined Papageno, whose athleticism and clowning stole several scenes from the adjacent royalty and even the menacing Dana Pundt as Queen of the Night.

Ms. Pundt sang the flowing black-dressed Queen's famous Act II aria (Der Hölle Rache)) with the requisite power and Julia Hathaway’s bouncy interpretation of Papagena brought an equally lively response from her not-now-reluctant suitor Papageno. Their boisterous solos (Papageno's “Papagena! Papagena! Papagena!” and the “Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Papagena!” duet) were highlights of the drama. All the frolicking came to an end with the demise of insidious Queen and her acolytes, and Mr. Mix pronouncing a stentorian blessing on the assemblage.

If a scintillating mixture of farcical stage theatrics and meticulously crafted classical-era music is attractive, and it should be, Cinnabar’s new production cannot be missed.

Additional performances, with some cast changes, are set for June 17 (8 p.m.), June 18 (8), June 19 (2), June 24 (8), June 25 (8) and June 26 (2)