Merrill Auditorium in Portland is the venue for one of the world’s most frequently performed operas.
For the past 24 years, late July has meant opera for Maine music aficionados, and this summer is no different.
For the 25th consecutive July, Opera Maine will present two performances of a fully staged professional production at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium. This year artistic director Dona Vaughn has chosen Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” a superbly lyrical fantasy that has been pleasing audiences since 1791.
Open the Door for Three is a young and energetic traditional Irish trio that will be appearing this Saturday at Deertrees Theatre and Cultural Center.
‘The Magic Flute’
Twenty-four winters ago I got a call from Russ Burleigh, former general manager of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Burleigh’s message was tantalizing: A bunch of us (he rattled off some prominent Portland names) are planning to form a resident opera company, he said. Would you be interested in writing about our venture?
Thus began a warm relationship that continues to the present.
On July 24 and 26, Opera Maine will present its 25th main-stage production. And for the 25th year, I’ll be there. This is a wonderful company, and despite its limited season – one big production each summer – Opera Maine represents a pillar of our state’s culture.
Artistic director Dona Vaughn, returning for her 25th summer, has chosen an operatic fairy tale that’s been pleasing audiences for well over two centuries: “The Magic Flute,” with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder.
The librettist’s fantastic story involves a handsome lost prince, his comic sidekick, a beautiful princess in distress, a saintly high priest and a bitter, vengeful queen. The story involves a quest, and like most comic operas, complications and challenges abound but everything sorts out happily at the denouement as two loving couples head to the altar.
The opera’s 1791 debut was a huge success. Mozart was tremendously pleased with his artistry, its popular and critical acclaim and the money that he earned. Unfortunately, he died only two months after the premiere.
“The Magic Flute” remains one of the most frequently performed operas by troupes around the world. The famous aria sung by the Queen of the Night is one of the most frequently performed operatic excerpts – so much so that it’s often parodied. It’s also considered a consummate test of a coloratura soprano.
Vaughn serves as stage director, just as she has since “Carmen” in 1995. She’s a longtime professor of opera at the Manhattan School of Music, and has directed other prestigious programs and master classes elsewhere.
The music director is new for 2019. Mexican-born Roberto Kalb is a rising star on the international operatic scene, with a major permanent position in St. Louis and frequent freelance appearances elsewhere. He will conduct an orchestra of about 35, many of whom are members of the Portland Symphony.
Per Opera Maine’s longtime policy, the key roles are filled by experienced professional singers who have already established national and international reputations. The prince and princess will be performed by tenor Geoffrey Agpalo and soprano Brandie Sutton, respectively.
Robert Mellon, who had the title role in Opera Maine’s 2018 production of “The Marriage of Figaro,” will return as the prince’s comic companion. The notoriously virtuosic Queen of the Night will be coloratura soprano Kathryn Bowdon. If anyone doubts that Bowden can handle the incredible aria, note that she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in this role in 2017.
Three Maine women, Amelie Lourdeau, Hope Poore and Liberty Krauss, will portray a trio of spirits.
Opera Maine presents “The Magic Flute” at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall for two performances: 7:30 p.m. July 24 and 26. Call PortTix at 842-0800.