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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
Recital
ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
OPERA REVIEW
The Magic Flute / Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jacob Thompson and Morgan Harrington in Mozart's Magic Flute

FROTHY FROLICKING AT CINNABAR'S MAGICAL FLUTE

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 11, 2016

Though having just two acts, Mozart’s Opera “The Magic Flute” encompasses a jumbled fairy tale plot with complicated staging and myriad performers in demanding vocal roles. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater took up the arduous challenge of this 1791 work, among Mozart’s last, in a series of performances that opened on the June 10 weekend.

Even with intricate staging, an opera’s success usually rides on achieving a glorious performance of the score and vocal lines, and here Mozart’s composition was surely glorious, as conductor Mary Chun drew from a 12-musican orchestra placed stage right a warmly nuanced reading that never covered the singers. In fact, the singing, in an English translation by Ross Halper, was crystal clear in the intimate 115-seat theater with zero reverberation. Ms. Chun’s tempos were judicious all evening and she sculpted precise attacks and releases. The musical phrases were always supple.

Cinnabar’s annual opera is invariably extravagantly staged and this “Flute” production was no exception. Though using only one set, the wide stage was brilliantly alive with a kaleidoscopic-lit back wall and touches of bright blue and yellow lights (from designer Wayne Hovey) and Lisa Claybaugh’s period costumes fit the actors perfectly. Stage Designer Sharlyn Klein and Stage Director Elly Lichenstein fashioned a theatrical romp that paid homage to the Beatles and had copious references to 1960’s clichés and jargon. The premise for this “magical mystery tour” is the convoluted plot (originally in Egypt) that leads a pro-forma opera
hero (Tamino) and a slapstick bird catcher (Papageno) on a quest for romantic satisfaction, with many false starts, physical trials and comedic predicaments.

This lavish mounting of an opera of exceptional fantasy may not have been to everyone’s taste, as vaudeville and inane humor can easily move attention from the radiant music and slide into absurdity. But the full-house audience Saturday night loved the showy histrionics and the playoff of Las Vegas-style costumes and dance (the three ladies) with the commanding and august personage of Sarastro (bass Richard Mix) and his dutiful and stoic priests.

Well, how was the singing in this hybrid drama (“Singspiel”) that combined spoken words and snippets of arias? On the whole it was convincing and meshed well with the stage action. Tenor Jacob Thompson (Tamino) and Soprano Morgan Harrington (Princess Pamina) had the most lengthy roles, and Mr. Thompson sang with a healthy if never really lyrical voice, and Ms. Harrington’s light spinto voice had ardent charm. Both were often upstaged by the antics of Eugene Walden’s portrayal of the witless but determined Papageno, whose athleticism and clowning stole several scenes from the adjacent royalty and even the menacing Dana Pundt as Queen of the Night.

Ms. Pundt sang the flowing black-dressed Queen's famous Act II aria (Der Hölle Rache)) with the requisite power and Julia Hathaway’s bouncy interpretation of Papagena brought an equally lively response from her not-now-reluctant suitor Papageno. Their boisterous solos (Papageno's “Papagena! Papagena! Papagena!” and the “Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Papagena!” duet) were highlights of the drama. All the frolicking came to an end with the demise of insidious Queen and her acolytes, and Mr. Mix pronouncing a stentorian blessing on the assemblage.

If a scintillating mixture of farcical stage theatrics and meticulously crafted classical-era music is attractive, and it should be, Cinnabar’s new production cannot be missed.

Additional performances, with some cast changes, are set for June 17 (8 p.m.), June 18 (8), June 19 (2), June 24 (8), June 25 (8) and June 26 (2)