Laurier Opera Delivers Magical Music

Last weekend, Laurier’s faculty of Music unveiled their production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, this year’s fully-staged winter semester opera production.

The production was marketed as “both traditional and topical,” blending elements of Inuit mythology and classic character archetypes with modern, quirky adaptations of the dialogue (performed in English).

The adaptation came courtesy of Michael Cavanagh, who also served as the stage director. Musical performances were directed by Leslie De’Ath. With seventeen undergraduate and graduate students in lead roles as well as a small chorus – all accompanied by a student orchestra – the professionalism of the young performers spoke to Laurier’s outstanding Music faculty.

While all performers were exceptional singers as well as actors, some stood out for all the right reasons.

Tyler Fitzgerald, cast as the mischievous Papageno, showcased an exquisite singing voice as well as tremendous restraint in his acting role. While Fitzgerald portrayed the quintessential buffoon character, he managed to maintain a refreshing balance of schmaltz and subtlety.

Also well-balanced were Samantha Pickett, Stephanie Desjardins and Neva Lyn-Kew, who comprised the three lusty ladies in Saturday night’s cast. While their roles could have easily become cartoonish caricatures, the three performers possessed a sense of self-awareness in addition to fantastic acting skills, making their parts the highlight of the show.

Their vocal performances were also one of the high points of the production. The three voices were well-matched and carried off near-pitch-perfect harmonies.

The most superb vocal performance, however, came from student Nicole Dubinsky as the Queen of the Night. While every performer was well-suited for his or her role and carried off the singing splendidly, Dubinsky’s powerhouse performance showcased a refined technique that can only come from years of extremely devoted training and a dedication to her craft.

While some of Cavanagh’s modern dialogue felt natural and refreshing, many of the one-liners (such as Papageno saying that the three ladies’ singing was his “ringtone”) felt forced and reminiscent of Anne Hathaway and James Franco’s ghastly “young and hip” Oscars performance.

Though sufficient laughs came from the audience, it was difficult at times to distinguish between genuine laughs and giggles derived from discomfort and sympathy for the performers.

The only other major flaw with the show was the decision to project stock images of the Arctic onto the white sheet backdrop. While a simple wash of blue light would have set the mood in a classy, minimalist way, the images projected onto the backdrop were tacky and likened the stage to a desktop background. If anything, the choice undermined the professionalism of the young performers.
Cavanagh’s decision to set the opera in the Arctic was refreshing and felt natural for most of the opera. Though some of the elements of the “modern” adaptation came off as clumsy, the refined skill of the music students more than made up for any faults in the production.
The final production of The Magic Flute will take place in Brantford on Mar. 11.