Mozart's 'flute' plays magical tune

The Washington National Opera brings to D.C. the whimsical yet wise "The Magic Flute" - Mozart's fairy-tail singspiel of a prince, a princess, a wizard, magic, color, coloratura, parable, allegory and oh yes, beautiful music.

"The Magic Flute" is a timeless yet esoteric opera about a prince (Tamino) and a feathered bird-catcher (Papageno) who are recruited by a queen to rescue her princess daughter (Pamina) from the wizard Sarastro. It is mainly a fairy tale and entertains people of all ages by its tunes, its magic and its adorable characters. But it also manages to expound the deep virtues of the Enlightenment with Masonic symbols, allegories and axioms scattered throughout the production.

The cast includes Michael Schade as a na?ve but bright Tamino, Andrea Rost as an adorable Pamina, Rod Gilfry as a humorous, amiable Papageno and Amanda Pabyan as the vengeful queen. Robert Baker humors the audience as a rotund, bright-green and conniving Monastatos, and Kwangchul Youn authoritatively debuts as Sarastro. The set and costumes by Gerald Scarfe fruitfully create a true world of magic with the most unusual and amusing-looking creatures (like the alligator-red-tennis-shoes-penguin), and abstract fairy-tale people and lands.

The production is a mix of spoken words and opera - which is why it is a singspiel. Like "Don Giovanni," Mozart laced "The Magic Flute" with comical, casual tunes, poignant arias and sublime choruses, contrasting the coloratura of the queen with the basso profundo of Sarastro. "The Magic Flute" is a story about a shift from night to day, magic to truth and savagery to civility.

This production is ideal for anyone who is willing to be introduced to opera. It is easy to follow, full of surprises and is a spectacular performance. Audiences will be thrilled by the "Queen of the Night's Aria," sung with tremendous vocal acrobatics by the soprano. They will laugh at the antics of Papageno and Monastatos, and at the absurdity of the creatures, the colorful sets and the characters - and they will love a perfectly happy ending.

The April 16 performance of "The Magic Flute" will feature up and coming artists who are a part of the Washington National Opera's Young Artists Program. Members of the Program are hand-picked by Washington National Opera General Director Pl cido Domingo. The performance, specially priced to be accessible to students and young people, is at 4 pm on April 16.

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