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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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)