Review: The Magic Flute (Lyric Opera of Chicago)

| December 9, 2011
08. Act 1, THE MAGIC FLUTE, RST_0647 c. Dan Rest       
The Magic Flute  

By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conducted by Sir Andrew Davis 
Directed by Matthew Lata
at Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker (map)
thru Jan 22  |  tickets: $49-$254   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review


Filling the Lyric with Mozart’s musical merriment


01. Charles Castronovo, THE MAGIC FLUTE RST_0495 c. Dan Rest

Lyric Opera of Chicago presents
The Magic Flute

Review by Katy Walsh 

The 2011/2012 Lyric Opera Season is being marketed with a sassy, high-spirited campaign.  ‘More passion than the Kennedy at rush hour’ and ‘our singers don’t need microphones’ are two of the slogans promoting a softer side to the world renowned institution.  The opera roster reflects a similar frisky sentiment.  The Lyric is giving us plenty to laugh at this season.  Tales of Hoffmann (our review) and Araidne Auf Naxos (review) were anchored in light-hearted, romantic hi-jinx.  The Lyric seems to be reacting to economic and political pressures by liberally letting-their-hair-down.  Side-stepping their traditional character, it’s almost like the Lyric is asking Chicago, ‘why so serious, dude?’ I’m waiting for the cheeky ‘your life is a dramatic opera, escape here’ banner.  03. Audrey Luna, Charles Castronovo, THE MAGIC FLUTE DAN_2022, c. Dan RestAnd now, because good things come in threes, this third humorous, lovable offering pops up on the Lyric schedule.        

The Lyric Opera of Chicago presents The Magic Flute.  Tamino loves Pamina!  He’s never met her but he’s heard she’s imprisoned at a temple.  Pamina loves Tamino!  She’s never met him but she’s heard he’s coming to rescue her.  It’s love before first sight.  It’s that simple!  Well, not quite.  Pamina’s captor and her mother are demanding, punishing authorities.  Before Pamina can be released, Tamino must convert to the brotherhood.  His initiation rite is a series of tests.  Meanwhile, mom wants Pamina to murder her priestly jailer.  Pamina is confused.  She wants to chat it out with her beloved.  But, he’s not speaking to her!  Unbeknownst to Pamina, Tamino’s hazing stunt is to ignore her.  His silence pushes her into suicidal madness.  To add to the lunacy, there is a girl-crazed sidekick, a prince-obsessed trio, green-faced natives and a whole lot of beastly creatures.  The Magic Flute spellbinds people in the fervor and the funny.  

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed this opera for the person who wants everything. Sure, sure, sure… there is the quest for true love. That is the heart of this story! But, this story has plenty of legs to stand on starting with the creepy crawly variety. Mozart’s score goes frisky with the dancing puppet pageantry. Lions, bear, crow are easily identifiable. Serpent, monkey-boy, dragon-dinosaur are more mystifying in this world of pretend antiquity. Traveling into the jungle, the score goes tribal with colorful green-skinned natives sporting bright orange outfits. The German opera performed singspiel (singing and speaking) takes multiple buffoon twists with Stephane DeGout (Papageno). Under the direction of Matthew Lata, DeGout nails the comedy slapstick. He hilariously searches for his bride-to-be in all the usual places… in temple ruins, in the audience, in the orchestra pit. Proving the Lyric has a healthy sense of humor, DeGout delivers a line in English and turns to look at the projected translation. Zing, it’s German! Later, Chicago Bears injured Jay Cutler gets a nod out or rather the thumbs up. Hey-o!

09. Stephane Degout, Nicole Cabell, THE MAGIC FLUTE, DAN_2213 c. Dan Rest 17. Charles Castronovo, Nicole Cabell, THE MAGIC FLUTE, DAN_3213 c. Dan Rest
11. Charles Castronovo, THE MAGIC FLUTE, DAN_2338 c. Dan Rest 13. Nicole Cabell, THE MAGIC FLUTE, DAN_2929 c. Dan Rest

There is a lot of marvelous whimsy on this flower sprouting and wine spewing set. But when it’s Mozart, all you really need is the music. A naturally animated Sir Andrew Davis serves up zesty pleasure with his wand-like baton. The trio of boys guiding the action is perfectly harmonious. Anna Stephan, Benjamin Hoppe, and Nicole Horio are a trifecta of talent. Their combined unison is heaven sent. Channeling evil and impressive vocal control, Audrey Luna (Queen) is a commanding force during her arias. Luna has her own magical instrument that is a powerful showstopper. Nicole Cabell (Pamina) sings with soulful conflicted passion. Cabell brings a bittersweet tenderness to all the frolicking male bonding. Wow!

There’s a reason The Magic Flute is such a well-known opera. And the Lyric is coming out to play in a big way with their Mozart musical merriment.

Rating: ★★★★

The Magic Flute continues through January 22nd at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive (map).  Tickets are $49-$254, and are available by phone (312-332-2244 x5600) or online here (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: Three hours 15 minutes, which includes one intermission)

16. Stephane Degout, Jennifer Jakob, THE MAGIC FLUTE, DAN_3165 c. Dan Rest

All photos by Dan Rest 




Nicole Cabell (Pamina); Charles Castronovo (Tamino, Dec 6-Jan 6); Alek Shrader (Tamino, Jan 9-22); Stéphane Degout (Papageno); Audrey Luna (Queen of the Night); Günther Groissböck (Sarastro); Richard Stilwell (Speaker); Rodell Rosel (Monostatos); Elisabeth Meister (First Lady); Anna Stephan, Benjamin Hoppe, Nicole Horio

behind the scenes

Sir Andrew Davis (conductor); Matthew Lata (director); Jörg Zimmermann (set design); Renate Kalanke (costumes); Jason Brown (lighting); Michael Black (Chorus Master); Sonya Friedman (supertitle projections); Dan Rest (photos)

3words: A first timer to the Lyric, Jasleen describes it with ‘fanciful fluted follies.’


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Category: 2011 Reviews, Civic Opera House, Katy Walsh, Lyric Opera, Opera

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