Review of The Magic Flute at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    Mozart’s great comic opera, The Magic Flute, is thoroughly delightful in the marvelous staging at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

    The opera’s setting is far removed from everyday reality. Opera Theatre’s design team has created a striking look for such a place. Ryan Howell’s scenic design features an abstract, repeating design on both the walls and the floor and a massive tree with exceptionally gnarled bark. The set takes on many different looks under Christopher Akerlind’s lighting. Jessica Jahn’s costumes and Tom Watson’s wigs and makeup resist any effort to place them in a familiar category.

    Stage director Omer Ben Seadia handles the opera’s double plot with total assurance. She gives appropriate weight to the allegorical romance of the noble figures, Tamino and Pamina. At the same time, she exploits the comic potential in the subplot about Papageno and Papagena, which sends up the main plot’s love story.

    Joshua Blue as Tamino and Erica Petrocelli as Pamina sing and act with a sweetness befitting their characters. Johnathan McCullough is a superb comedian and singer as Papageno, the bird catcher. Angel Riley is a charming Papagena. Christian Sanders is a fine comic villain as Monostatos.

    Jeni Houser demonstrates sparkling coloratura and a keen understanding of her character as Pamina’s mother, the Queen of the Night. Her opposite number is Sarastro, High Priest of the Sun. Adam Lau is sonorous and deeply consoling in this role. Evan Lazdowski is an imposing figure as Spokesman of the Temple.

    The splendid cast includes:

    • Meghan Kasanders, Meridian Prall, and Stephanie Sanchez as the three ladies
    • Thandolwethu Mamba, Steven Ricks, and Schyler Vargas as the three workers
    • Hallie Schmidt, Daniela Magura, and Maria Consamus as the three spirits
    • Patrick Bessenbacher, Zaikuan Song, and Nathaniel Sullivan as the Elders
    • Adam Catangui and Keith Klein as the Gatekeepers

    The production starts with a gripping account of the famous overture by the Saint Louis Symphony under conductor Rory Macdonald. Their musical understanding and execution are exemplary throughout. The choreography by Seán Curran, the choral singing under chorus master Kevin J. Miller, and the English diction coached by Erie Mills are all excellent.

    The Magic Flute continues at 7:30 p.m. on June 2, 10, 14, 22, and 26 and at 12:30 p.m. on June 8 and 18.

    —Gerry Kowarsky

    Photo by Eric Woolsey

    From left to right, Johnathan McCullough (Papageno), Maria Consamus (3rd Spirit), Hallie Schmidt (1st Spirit), and Daniela Magura (2nd Spirit) in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.