Roberto Kalb has seen quite a bit of America lately. The conductor is in Portland for Opera Maine’s “The Magic Flute” on Wednesday and Friday at Merrill Auditorium, stepping up when the organization quickly severed ties with its previous conductor after charges of sexual harassment. Already this season, Kalb has conducted “The Barber of Seville” for Tulsa Opera in Oklahoma and “Frida” for Florida Grand Opera. Just before arriving in Maine, he conducted “Rigoletto” for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Kentucky Opera.
In an interview with Opera News this month, he talked about his commitment to the art form, saying “… there’s something about a singer onstage, accompanied by an orchestra, delivering a message, that’s unlike anything else. … That’s what I live for.”
Opera Maine presents ‘The Magic Flute” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday at Merrill. Written by Mozart, it tells the story of a prince and a bird catcher who try to save a princess, armed with a magic flute and enchanted bells. Mozart wrote it near the end of his life and conducted its debut in Vienna in September 1791. He died in December of the same year.
“The Magic Flute” is known as a “singspiel,” a German opera that combines singing with spoken dialogue.
Dona D. Vaughn returns as artistic director for this production. Vaughn has directed every mainstage Opera Maine production since the company was founded 25 years ago. The cast includes tenor Geoffrey Agpalo in the role of Prince Tamino. He recently performed at Michigan Opera Theatre as Jim Casey in “The Grapes of Wrath” and last year debuted as Alfredo in “La Traviata” with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Pamina, the princess in distress, will be performed by soprano Brandie Sutton, who has sung with Seattle Opera, Kentucky Opera and Knoxville Opera and will return this fall to the Metropolitan Opera.
The bird catcher Papageno will be sung by baritone Robert Mellon, who starred as Figaro in Opera Maine’s production of “The Marriage of Figaro” last summer. Mellon made his professional debut with the company in “Carmen” in 2016. Soprano Kathryn Bowden will sing the music of the Queen of the Night. She performed the role with San Francisco Opera and made her Metropolitan Opera debut as the Queen in 2017.
Hidenori Inoue returns to Opera Maine to sing the role of the Queen of the Night’s nemesis, Sarastro. The Queen of the Night attendants are Anna Mandina, Maureen Brabec and Kristen Choi. Matthew Curran will sing the role of the Speaker of the Temple, and the wicked Monostatos will be performed by Lucas Levy. Yeonji Lee will appear as the bird catcher’s mate, Papagena. Three Maine girls, Amelie Lourdeau, Hope Poore and Liberty Krauss, will be the Spirits who help guide Tamino and Papageno on their journey.
Opera Maine has expanded its “Opera for All!” program. Because of a grant, the opera is free for anyone 25 and younger, and 100 tickets will be distributed to active and retired military and first responders and their families.
Stephen Lord, who has conducted several Opera Maine productions, was accused of harassment by several singers at opera companies around the country. Opera Maine cut ties with him when the allegations surfaced, and Kalb was recruited to take on the role.
Portland Press Herald. Monday, July 22, 2019