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November 24, 1986 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1986-11-24

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4

ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Monday, November 24, 1986

Page 7

i ,

Opera Theatre

By Neal Thomas with
Mich le Vin
From the opening moments,
when the lighting changes on the
finely painted sun and moon scrim
mimed the fanciful and darker
shades of Mozart's compact
overture, one could feel the presence
of yet another excellent University
Opera Theatre production.
Beset with the task of
combining the right amount of
comedy to what is also a serious
and heavily symbolic fairytale,
stage director Jay Lesenger (with
the help of Andrew Porter's superb
translation) and music director
Gustav Meier gave the sold out
Friday and Saturday night audiences
a Magic Flute that was strate -
gically hilarious, sometimes chill -
ing, and completely satisfying.
Mozart's last opera, first per -
formed only a month before his
death in 1791, is often classified as
a singspiel (sing-play) where much
dialogue occurs without musical
accompaniment. Yet without doubt
it is Mozart's crafty and luscious
writing for orchestra and voice
which keeps, what is at times, a
rather uneven libretto afloat. Gustav
Meier must have a way with
Mozart. His conducting was ex -
tremely sensitive, but never too
prissy, and the USO played with a
spirit that made Mozart come alive,
yet perhaps we might have heard a
more fear-filled reading of the third
trial music.
Although a singspiel, there is
plenty of room for good singing in

this Mozart opera. With essentially
two complete casts, Friday and
Saturday night's performances gave
us two well balanced groups of
singers who, on the whole, sang
superbly. Anyone familiar with The
Magic Flute will recall that the
Queen of the Night's two arias
require a coloratura soprano voice
of amazing agility yet with enough
stamina to give the arias appro -
priate steel and monarchal power.
For the soprano, these two arias are
perhaps the most difficult in all of
operatic literature. Obviously, they
rarely come off sounding perfect -
even on records. If we were to
combine the two Queens of Friday
and Saturday nights' casts we might
come somewhat close to that ideal.
Friday's Queen, Laura Lamport,
defined the difficult melismatic
phrases well in both arias yet her
top notes (there are numerous high
F's to be delt with) were dry and
short. She was, however, admirably
wicked, as was Saturday's Queen
Choonhye Lee, whose melismas
were more blurred, yet she sang
through each of her highest notes
with relative ease.
The age old problem of having a
Pamina who sounds older than her
mother (the Queen) was evident
only on Saturday - but what a
beautifully deeper colored and finely
musical voice of that Pamina,
Gabrielyn Watson, who was well
matched with her prince Tamino.
Matthew Chellis' voice - strik -
ingly larger and rounder than his co-
Tamino - at first lacked the
dramatic insight which Friday's
Tamino, Robert Breault, seemed to

naturally poss
warmed up to s
portrait aria and
well, especially
Tamino, as a chi
prig and a hero
and a wonderfu
characteristics v
who possesses a
considerably smc
The role that
that of the me
catcher Papag
(Mozart's swas
actor-writer lib
role for himself
goofy dispositi
singing. John
ideally suited
we've seen in h
Falstaff and T
He sang (and a
charm and with
perfect diction,
been less distan
duet with Pamin
Papageno, Nor
not be a natur
always sang w
beautifully war
was truly touch
Pamina.
Sarastro, the
religious-order
izing that of
Mozart) was sun
not without so
registral juxtap
seasoned Micha
Saturday's cas
credible voca
Stephen Morsch
sounded as goo
on some profe

brings m
ess, but he soon His perfectly focused bass-baritone
sing a magnificent singing and speaking voice poss -
continued singing essed plenty of stage 'presence to
in the ensembles. create the ideal powerful priest. The
aracter, is a bit of a trios of ladies and boys (sung by
at the same time, women) in both casts were well
l balance of these sung, with perhaps a better balance
we saw in Breault, of voices for the ladies on Saturday,
lyrically silky and yet their acting fell short of
aller voice. Friday's hilarious and sensitive trio.
tsteals the show is It was indeed obvious some
,rry, buffoon bird money was spent on the visual
eno. Shikaneder aspects of the production. The re -
shbuckling singer- markably practical yet luxurious set
rettist) wrote this designs looked well crafted (save for
f and it requires a a clumsy Scene Two back drop
ion for some fun which consistantly banged into the
Muriello seems other sets), added to the magical
for such roles, as quality of the work, and brought
is performances in out a pleasant compromise between
'he Merry Widow. 1980's sophistication and the
cted) with wit and simplistic staging of Mozart's day.
h his characteristic The three boys descended from a
yet he might have colorful giant circle complete with
t in his Scene Two golden seatbelts and studded with
a. While Saturday's stars and flame, while the evil
man Spivey, may forces ascended from below the
al for the role, he stage., There was even a certain
ith a smile in his razzle dazzle at times as bright loud
m baritone, which explosions killed off the colorful
ing in his duet with serpent in the opening scene, and as
the re-appearance of the evil Queen
high priest of the in Act Two was met with a
(probably symbol - wonderfully smokey explosion not
the Masons for unlike that of the wicked witch of
ng admirably though the west. The costumes used were
)me uncomfortable compiled with much taste and
ositions by the less sophistication, particularly that of
el Begian on Friday. the comic villain Monostatos and
t gave us an in - the Queen of the Night who wore a
. performance by complicated black dress with
heck, whose Sarastro sparkling silver trimmings.
d as what one finds Tamino, the by-the-book hero,
ssional recordings. donned an appropriately prim and

simple costume while his sidekick
Papageno could have had more
imaginative garb including more
feathers..
All in all, a more well balanced
and exciting performance could not
have been wished for from a team
of singer and directors who once
again have triumphed over the

mediocre opera productions we've
had to bear lately even from -
professional companies. Last year
the University Opera Theatre
showed up a timid and careless San
Francisco Opera Company (Don
Giovanni) with their excellent
Falstaff. This year, a brilliant
Magic Flute.

gic to Flute

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'Records

Joseph Spence
Happy All the Time
Carthage
Spence was a carpenter in the
Bahamas who was first recorded by
Sam Charters in 1958. His raw
calypso-style singing and brilliant
guitar work attracted the attention
of many of the movers and shakers
of the '60s folk revival, and one of
them, Fritz Richmond of Jim
Kweskin's Jug Band, arranged for

these later field recordings in 1964.
From a historical standpoint
Happy All the Time is a
fascinating record. Many of the
ideas that Harry Belafonte
popularized a few years earlier are
here in their raw forms. Hints of
the reggae that would soon grow
out of the same region are
everywhere as well.
But the chief value of the record
is that it's a joy to hear. Spence has
a power and vitality that transform
his potentially banal subjects into

flights of musical contentment. His
endearing growls and barely audible
asides play off guitar runs that any
top-rank bluesman would be proud
to call his own. While the sound is
radically different from any of its
more popular descendants, it has its
own appeal that brings you back to
it repeatedly.
This current re-release, courtesy
of Joe Boyd's Carthage Records, is
in fine condition, with none of the
technical problems that sometimes

mar field recordings
brilliant performers.
-Joseph Kraus

of otherwise

YIH f .. A ,
0

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