Tenor Paul Appleby makes an appealing San Francisco Opera debut in “The Magic Flute.” (Courtesy Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera)

Tenor Paul Appleby makes an appealing San Francisco Opera debut in “The Magic Flute.” (Courtesy Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera)

S.F. Opera stages mystical ‘Magic Flute’

Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” is filled with allegorical elements that deftly disguised taboo subjects of his era, such as reigning monarchs, the shadowy order of the Freemasons, and the concept of justice. And San Francisco Opera has done the composer’s late-career masterpiece justice with its delightful revival of an English-language production.

The composer’s original Singspiel, or German-language music drama, is already a bit of a stretch, with its setting in mythical Egypt. Jun Kaneko’s multimedia production takes yet another artistic step away from Teutonic themes with colorful costumes and a minimalist set suggestive of Tokugawa-era Japan.

Before Tuesday’s opening performance, general director David Gockley, who created the English translation of the production, announced that two indisposed cast members, Albina Shagimuratova and Jacqueline Piccolino, would be replaced in the roles of the Queen of the Night and the First Lady by, respectively, Kathryn Bowden and Julie Adams.

Bowden was on the tentative side in the first of her two showpiece arias in Act 1, but the soprano’s voice opened up nicely and she was in full imperious flower in Act 2, delivering her role’s signature fireworks with flair while hitting all her top notes.

Tenor Paul Appleby was impressive in his San Francisco Opera debut as the love-struck prince Tamino, warmly conveying his ardor for the princess Pamina with beautiful lyricism and a moving dramatic performance. As Pamina, Sarah Shafer was equally up to the task with her lucid voice and expressive stage presence. (Nadine Sierra will assume the role of Pamina for all November performances.)

As the hapless Papageno, baritone Efrain Solis was generally solid vocally and comically effective as the bird catcher who seemingly has better luck catching birds than landing a potential mate. Maria Valdes charmingly portrayed his ultimate prize Papagena.

Bass-baritone Alfred Reiter solemnly and precisely reached the depths of the vocal range required for Sarastro, the benign sorcerer. Tenor Greg Fedderly engagingly provided an evil counterpoint with his portrayal of the lecherous Monostatos.

Additional excellent contributions came from bass Anthony Reed as the Speaker, and Adams, who was joined in her naughty trio of ladies by mezzo-soprano Nian Wang and Zanda Svede. Michael Sacco, Pietro Juvara and Rafael Karpa-Wilson gave a sweet account of the oft-in-air-suspended Three Boys.

Ian Robertson’s Opera Chorus added to the sonorous proceedings, over which conductor Lawrence Foster presided with sensitivity and clarity.

REVIEW

The Magic Flute
Presented by San Francisco Opera
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.,
When: 2 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, Nov. 4, Nov. 12, Nov. 14, Nov. 17, Nov. 20
Tickets: $26 to $381
Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com


Efrain SolisJulie AdamsKathryn BowdenMagic FluteMozartPaul ApplebySan Francisco Opera

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Jill Bonny, owner of Studio Kazoku tattoo parlor in the Haight, tattoos client Lam Vo on Friday, March 5, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
No one was fighting for tattoo artists, so they started advocating for themselves

Jill Bonny has been tattooing in the Bay Area since 2000. Four… Continue reading

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes to The City's streets including Slow Streets closures to increase open space access and the Shared Spaces program, which allows businesses to use public right-of-ways for dining, retail and services. (Examiner illustration)
COVID is reshaping the streets of San Francisco

Walk down Page Street, which is closed to thru-traffic, and you might… Continue reading

At a rally in February, Monthanus Ratanapakdee, left, and Eric Lawson remember Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man who died after he was pushed to the pavement in San Francisco. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Examiner file photo)
The criminal justice system can’t fix what’s wrong in our community

My 87-year-old mother walks gingerly, slowly, deliberately, one step in front of… Continue reading

Superintendent Vincent Matthews said some students and families who want to return will not be able to do so at this time. “We truly wish we could reopen schools for everyone,” he said. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD sets April reopening date after reaching tentative agreement with teachers union

San Francisco Unified School District has set April 12 as its reopening… Continue reading

José Victor Luna and Maria Anabella Ochoa, who cite health reasons for continuing distance learning, say they have been enjoying walking in Golden Gate Park with their daughters Jazmin, a first grader, and Jessica, a third grader. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Some SFUSD families prefer distance learning

Health issues, classroom uncertainties among reasons for staying home

Most Read