TU opera uses Mozart to display student talent

The Magic Flute is one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s more famous operas and includes a number of well-known and impressive arias. It follows the adventures of a handsome prince, a bird-catcher, the Queen of the Night and her beautiful daughter, and a mysterious wizard named Sarastro.

Rather than a full-scale, lights-and-scenery production, TU Opera Theatre held a more intimate performance of The Magic Flute in Meinig Recital Hall. The show, beginning at 7:30 p.m. this past Friday, featured the musical stylings of a very talented group of TU students.

TU’s production was what vocal professor Brady McElligott cheekily referred to as “a Reader’s Digest version” of The Magic Flute. The show was somewhat condensed and interspersed with narration from McElligott, which summarized the events of the opera for those who didn’t happen to be fluent in German.

I really enjoyed the formatting of the show, since it seemed like a little less of a commitment for the casual viewer or anyone not particularly versed in opera. It was easy to understand and accessible to the general public while still showcasing the talents of the TU singers and providing an enjoyable storyline.

I will say that towards the end the formatting grew to be a little tiring, simply because I had seen the same characters sing similar bits of music for the past two hours and was getting worn out. However, it strikes me that this is more a reflection on the structure of opera as a whole rather than on the performers.

Soprano Melanie Piché gave a lovely vocal performance and nearly convinced me that she was a real princess with her role as Pamina, the queen’s daughter. Zane Cawthon played an equally convincing Prince Tamino with a clear, noble-sounding voice.

Also striking was soprano Abigail Raiford, who performed two beautiful and nearly flawless arias as the Queen of the Night.

Accompaniment for the singers was simple, keeping with the tone of the production. Abigail Gschwend and Professor McElligott accompanied the singers beautifully on the piano.

Margaret Mealy played the part of the Magic Flute itself by accompanying the singers on the flute when the script called for it. I loved the character this added to the production, and her playing was wonderful.

I particularly enjoyed how the performers lightened up the show (which, admittedly, is a comedy) with costumes and props — for example, signs saying “thunder and lightning” or “applause” to replace sound effects. The costumes were often lighthearted as well. One of the opera’s villains, Monostatos, was dressed as Mario.

They also compensated for shortages with comedy — the cast was short one female singer, so Papageno (baritone Josh Harris) had to sing a duet not with the lovely lady Papagena, but rather with bass Michael Schragg, decked out in a very glittery and suggestive dress and tons of feathers.

I definitely enjoyed this production. What was most striking to me was the number of outstandingly talented students collaborating on this production. I’m not a vocalist, so I can’t speak as an expert, but to me many of the musicians seemed as though they wouldn’t be out of place in a professional production.

I’d like to see more students attending TU music productions in the future. There’s no reason not to experience the outstanding talent that’s right here on our own campus, especially when most (if not all) productions and recitals are free for students.

Post Author: tucollegian

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