review by Alex Brooks
Hubbard Hall has opened a production of The Magic Flute, Mozart’s last opera.
This is an amazingly ambitious and successful production, with a 19 piece live orchestra and a cast of 28. It’s full of laughs and great music and a wacky plot which is entertaining if confusing, and also often stirring. Somehow the whole package works, and it drew an extended standing ovation on opening night.
The story, full of elements drawn from fairy tales, the picaresque tradition, and the Commedia dell’arte tradition, concerns an earnest young prince on a mission to save a young princess, comically echoed by his sidekick Papageno, who eventually finds his own love along the way. In the meantime they oscillate between the two towering rivals, the Queen of the Night, and the wise and powerful King Sarastro.
If opera is normally experienced as looking through opera glasses at aging divas who are 60 yards away in a cavernous space, surrounded by elaborate sets which look a bit like doll houses because they are so far away, Hubbard Hall opera is a fine antidote to that. Here we have young people on their way up, full of youth and talent and creativity, singing in a very intimate setting. with minimalist sets. Here is a space small enough that a dozen powerful voices can “blow the doors off it,” figuratively speaking, and the effect can be thrilling. Here is a space in which the singers are often singing a few feet from the front row, and the furthest seat back is less than 30 feet away.
The quality of the cast that HHOT has assembled here is rather amazing. Brian Kuhl’s fine tenor suits the earnest Tamino beautifully. Andrew Pardini’s Papageno is a delight with his wonderful costume, comic antics and fine singing voice. Soprano Brooke Schooley handles the enormous demands of the Queen of the Night role with authority, never missing a note through some unbelievably difficult coloratura runs. Bass Charles Martin brings gravitas to the role of Sarastro, and Hoosick Falls’ own Dave Sutton is a standout member of the ensemble, his powerful voice an important part of the choral finales at the end of each act.
Catch this wonderful show if you can – the run is very short. The only remaining performances are the two matinees, at 2 pm on Saturday and Sunday, August 18 and 19. For tickets call the box office at 518-677-2495 or visit www.hubbardhall.org