One of the world’s best-loved operas returns to the stage of the War Memorial Opera House this week as San Francisco Opera presents a revival of its 2012 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
This vibrant and unusual multimedia staging has been designed by Jun Kaneko, directed by Harry Silverstein and – making his Company debut – renowned American conductor Lawrence Foster leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Director Ian Robertson).
With a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder – the Austrian actor, tenor, playwright and theatrical producer – Mozart’s foray into the world of fantasy and enchantment features some of his most tuneful compositions. Premiered on September 30, 1791, at the Theater auf der Wieden near Vienna, with the composer conducting, it was the last opera which Mozart wrote – he died on December 5, the same year.
Taking the form of a Singspiel – which includes both singing and spoken dialogue – the opera draws us into a land of savage serpents and magical musical instruments, in which Tamino, a handsome prince, goes in search of Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night, who is being held against her will in the temple of the high priest, Sarastro. Accompanied by a birdcatcher named Papageno (sung in the original performance by Schikander), Tamino hopes to show that not only will true love conquer all, but that truth, wisdom and justice will prove to be victorious as well.
This San Francisco production of The Magic Flute stars tenor Paul Appleby as Tamino, in his Company debut. A frequent guest at the Metropolitan Opera, Paul Appleby is equally accomplished in concert and recital as in opera. This past summer he made his Glyndebourne debut in a new production of Handel’s Saul, he returned to the Met as Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail conducted by James Levine, and appeared in concert performances of Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Coronation Mass with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony, in Mozart’s Requiem with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and in the same work with Jane Glover and the New York Philharmonic.
The role of Pamina will be shared by sopranos Sarah Shafer and Nadine Sierra. Ms Shafer – praised by The New York Times for her “luminous voice” and “intensely expressive interpretations” has appeared in two world premiere productions for San Francisco Opera. She was described as a “sparkle-toned soprano” by Bay Area News Group in her role as Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, and was most recently seen as Rosetta in Marco Tutino’s Two Women, “a performance marked by gleaming, powerful vocalism and a probing dramatic intelligence”, according to SF Gate.
Nadine Sierra – a former Adler Fellow – is rapidly gaining an enviable reputation for her performances with some of the world’s leading opera companies. Having recently appeared as the Countess in San Francisco Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro, Ms Sierra is presently singing the title role in the Company’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor, delivering “Lucia’s demanding cadenzas with precision and pure, bell-like tone” (SF Classical Voice), and a mad scene “that simply brought down the house”(San Jose Mercury News).
Popular Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova returns to the War Memorial Opera House once more as The Queen of the Night, a role which she sang in the 2012 performance – described by SF Classical Voice as “simply breathtaking”. Following Ms Shagimuratova’s appearance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, last year, The Times (London) wrote: “With Albina Shagimuratova’s Queen of Night: every note is luminescent, star-bright and perfectly placed in the constellation”. The Guardian described her “show-stealing” performance as “electrifyingly accurate”.
Mexican-American baritone Efraín Solís (presently a second-year Adler Fellow) makes his role debut as the yearning bird-catcher Papageno. He first appeared with San Francisco Opera last year as Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, and also as Silvano in Un Ballo in Maschera, as Sciarrone in Tosca, as Schaunard in La Bohème and as Dandini in Jean Pierre-Ponnelle’s revival of La Cenerentola, following which he was described by Opera Today as “the biggest star of the evening” who “exuded the charm, pent-up fun and exuberant singing that will make him a Rossini star”.
The role of Sarastro is sung by German bass-baritone Alfred Reiter who has been a member of Oper Frankfurt’s Ensemble since the 2008-09 season. Mr Reiter – who first appeared with San Francisco Opera in 2002 in the roles of Timur in Turandot, and Frère Bernard in Saint François d’Assise – has sung Sarastro at theatres and festivals around the world, including those in Bregenz, Berlin, Munich, Geneva, Vienna, Salzburg, Paris, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
The Magic Flute is a San Francisco Opera co-production with Washington National Opera, Opera Carolina, Opera Omaha and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Sung in English – translation by David Gockley, with additional material by Ruth and Thomas Martin – it has English supertitles, and opens at the War Memorial Opera House on October 20, running for ten performances to November 20. For further information and tickets, visit www.sfopera.com.
San Francisco Opera program notes