OA: College’s ‘The Magic Flute’ to be exotic, lavish and witty

Steven Benton,left and Allyson Conally in “The Magic Flute"at Mesa St College.

Steven Benton, right,  and Brad Wagner in “The Magic Flute"at Mesa St College.

As you read this, “The Magic Flute” is being performed somewhere.

It’s that popular, according to Jack Delmore, professor of music at Mesa State College.

But in Grand Junction, the production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera is historic.

“The Magic Flute” is the first full-length, two-act operatic affair Mesa State has ever pulled off.

The cast is enormous and incorporates students from both the music and theater departments.

“The Magic Flute” has the run of four nights, Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 25–28, and a matinee on Sunday, March 1, in the college’s Robinson Theatre.

“It’s a great, fun show with a mix of characters,” said Delmore, who is directing the opera.

If you’re going to introduce someone to opera, this is the one to watch, he said.

“The Magic Flute” is a comedy with outrageous and exotic elements and lavish costumes.

Delmore has wanted to direct “The Magic Flute” at Mesa State since 1994. For the past few years, he has had the caliber of students needed for the roles, he said.

The opera was originally written and performed in German and set in Egypt, but the Mesa State version will be sung in English and set in China.

The college special-ordered a Chinese dragon for the performances. It takes more than five students to operate the dragon.

Mozart wrote “The Magic Flute” with his friend Emanuel Schikaneder. It was the last opera
Mozart wrote before his death in 1791.

Both Mozart and Schikaneder were Masons, and “The Magic Flute” is noted for symbolic Masonic components such as the use of threes, Delmore said. There are the Three Spirits, the Three Ladies and it was composed in three flats.

Mozart also was influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, an 18th century philosophy promoting freedom for all, individual rights and reason.

Ultimately, the opera is about the triumph of love and truth over all, including the conniving Queen of the Night.

“The Magic Flute” is a comical, fantasy tale of two men, prince Tamino and the bird-catcher Papageno, and their search for love while on a quest to rescue the queen’s daughter, Pamina.

The evil queen leads them astray while Sarastro, a wise ruler, offers them guidance.

“Mozart wrote it as a singspiel, which literally means ‘singing and speaking,’ ” Delmore said.

“It’s kind of like the forerunner of musical theater.”

Some characters require less operatic voices, more like musical theater, while others require high soprano voices or low bass or baritones with rich tones.

The college has produced several shorter operas. Senior Katie’B Jarvis’ first main stage performance with Delmore was in “Iolanthe,” she said. “The Magic Flute” will be her last.

Jarvis is double cast with Jennifer Walder as the character Papagena because the role is so vocally demanding.

“Singing opera every day is taxing on your voice,” Jarvis said.

The character of Papagena requires a triple threat performer: a strong actress, singer and dancer.

Papagena is a reward for the character Papageno. She begins the opera as an old woman who is magically transformed into a young woman for him.

How or why Papagena is old and then young is a mystery to Jarvis.

“It’s hard to explain,” she said. But it’s fun. The opera “is one of the reasons I’m here this semester.”

Jarvis decided not to graduate early so she could act in the opera.

“I’m still kind of soaking it all in,” she said.


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