PSU opera does it again

The Magic Flute
Lincoln Performance Hall
May 4,5,8,11,12
7:30 p.m.
$17 adult
$13 seniors
$9 students
Tickets at PSU box office or Ticketmaster
(503) 725-3307, (503) 790-ARTS.

There are lots of different, equally wonderful flutes in the world: wooden, metal, pan (yeah Zamfir!) and my favorite, skin. All flutes are jolly givers of joy, but magic flutes are perhaps the best.

Mozart liked flutes. In 1791 he wrote a beautiful opera about a prince searching for a captive princess with the help of his magic flute. A couple hundred years later, such a story is still of interest for flute lovers and laymen alike. It’s even the subject of one of the most popular video games or all times: Legend of Zelda.

The halls of Lincoln usually appear rather quiet. You wouldn’t guess that there are dozens of creative, flute-loving people working very hard on an elaborate production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

They’re there though. Students, alumni and guest professionals are working on their best operatic German (the play is sung in German with English subtext on a large screen), lush orchestral arrangements, a set that has the look of a Matisse landscape and fantastic samurai-like costumes.

I may not have much to compare this production to, but I think it’s fair to say that this is a very big deal. Many of the same people responsible for last year’s award-winning production of Mozart’s “The Marriage Of Figaro,” are also working on “Flute.” Who woulda’ thought Portland State had an opera program, let alone an award-winning one?

The cast and crew’s credits are impressive. PSU Opera founder/director Ruth Dobson coaches students and has worked on many excellent productions. Stage director Brenda Nuckton recently worked in Switzerland and has directed or worked on many award-winning productions and music director/conductor Keith Clark has conducted around the world and has collaborated on bestselling recordings.

The trio also collaborated together on last year’s “Figaro.”

The cast is made up of some seriously talented young students and alumni from varied backgrounds.

Aside from having good music and stage direction Portland State’s production will be visually interesting and unique as well. Seattle-based designer Carey Wong’s sets of golden stars and constellation blue were inspired by the paper collages of French artist Henri Matisse and the Japanese samurai inspired his colorful costume designs.

Wong said he wanted the design to be “very fairytale-like, with big splashes of color.” He feels that the play, originally written to take place in ancient Egypt, takes place in “a magical place where almost anything can happen.”

His splashes of color and creative costumes will add some flare to the older German language. As far as operas go, however, “The Magic Flute,” is pretty fun and entertaining. It is said to be one of the most popular and entertaining operas of all time.

Our hero Tamino is a handsome prince with a magic flute. His sidekick is a bird-like bird catcher named Papageno. As in Zelda, they set off in a fairytale kingdom to find true love and rescue the princess Pamina. Blending romance, magic and comedy Mozart has them battling serpents, sorcerers and an evil Queen.

Just in case you’ve been in a hole for a really long time, Mozart’s compositions are very good, really some of the best. He composed this epic in 1791 and it premiered in Vienna three months before his death at the age of 35.

In true operatic fashion, the play is sung completely in German; kudos to the players for pulling that off.

The addition of English subtitles will be a great and interesting addition too. They shouldn’t distract much since movement is minimal throughout most of the scenes. There are some grand scenes in which the tiered stage is filled with over 20 players.

I was rather impressed with this. I left the rehearsal bouncing along to the tune that stuck in my head and singing faux German. It just doesn’t get any better than that, I tell ya. I’m starting to think that my favorite type of flute may change from skin to magic here real soon.

Well, maybe not.