It’s been a year and a half since Minnesota Opera opened its striking and iconoclastic take on The Magic Flute. This production wowed audiences, who came in droves; at the time, the two-week run was the best-selling show in the company’s 41-year history (it was dethroned by last spring’s Carmen).
Not everyone took to this reimagining of Mozart’s classic opera as a silent movie comedy. While young audiences (including a large proportion of high schoolers and college students, two invaluable demographics for any arts organization) turned out in large numbers, some older ticket holders were put off by this unusual take on a beloved classic. Now, with the production back for a second run, the question is, “How well does is it work when the novelty is gone?” The answer is, “Really well.”
Most of the 2014 cast returned for the 2015 engagement; during the interim, Christie Conover (Pamina) continued to sing with this specific production design when Komische Oper Berlin took it on tour to China. Julien Behr, a lawyer-turned-opera singer, notably returns as Tamino, and his voice is in even better form than before. (He was also a 2015 finalist in the Operalia competition curated by Placido Domingo.) At the Tuesday night performance that was reviewed, Andrew Wilkowske (Papageno) was clearly the younger generation’s favorite, with his earnest hamming and melodious baritone.
One of the newer additions to the roster is Jeni Houser, one of Minnesota Opera’s newest Resident Artists and the Queen of the Night. Houser’s soprano voice was clear, light, and nimble, with a pleasing ring to her coloratura as she danced through the “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen.” While the projections made it difficult to gauge Houser’s acting, her vocal delivery should make subscribers look forward to seeing what she does when she returns in next spring’s The Shining.
Basil was named one of Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year in 2017.