Issaquah natives sing in opera ‘The Magic Flute’

May 10, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Fantastical creatures fill the stage — dragons, alligators and birds — but even more impressive are the lovers, committed to each other despite danger and challenges in the comedic opera “The Magic Flute,” written by Wolfgang Mozart in 1791.

Benjamin Richardson (center), of Issaquah, is one of The Three Spirits in the musical that runs through May 21. By Rozarh Lynch

Two Issaquah natives, Anya Matanovic and Benjamin Richardson, are currently starring in the Seattle Opera’s staging of the performance at McCaw Hall.

Soprano Matanovic, who graduated from Issaquah High School in 1999, has sung in nearly 40 operas. In 2009, she was singing the part of Musetta in “La Bohème” in Israel when she learned the Seattle Opera had offered her a role in “The Magic Flute.”

This will be her second time in the opera — a two-act story of Prince Tamino on his quest to save and prove himself to Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night.

It all starts with a dragon pursuing the prince, who faints dead away from fatigue. But, he is not alone — three ladies in the service of the Queen of the Night come to his rescue, slaying the dragon.

Enter Matanovic, the first lady with some comedy up her sleeve. True, the ladies saved Tamino together, but they separately think he’s handsome.

“We all individually fall in love with Tamino,” Matanovic said. “Each one of us is entertaining the thought that even though we’re not allowed, maybe this could be different — we could fall in love with him and he could fall in love with me.”

The ladies each, at first, hope that the other two will fetch the Queen of the Night, so they alone can stay with Tamino and court him. Finally, the three ladies agree to go get the queen as a group instead.

Meanwhile, the bird catcher Papageno takes credit for slaying the dragon. This doesn’t please the three ladies much, who punish Papageno. Then, the opera goes into full swing, with their mistress, the Queen of the Night, asking Tamino to save Pamina from the magician Sarastro.

The three ladies give Tamino a magic flute to help him on his journey, and they bequeath Papageno a set of magic chimes to aid the prince along the way.

Three spirits help the duo during their trials. Richardson, a 12-year-old home-schooled boy who lives in Klahanie, plays one of the child spirits, singing second soprano and sometimes gliding across stage on a scooter. He began singing as a toddler, and has performed in the Northwest Boychoir and with Seattle Symphony.

The three ladies return throughout the opera, helping Tamino on his journey. Matanovic advised patrons to look for Masonic symbols, as Mozart often put symbols of three — three ladies, three spirits, three Egyptian pyramids — in the opera because of the Trinity.

The opera has a number of spellbinding arias and notes low and high — in fact, the highest and lowest notes recognized by most opera singers, a high F and a low F.

The costumes also impress. Designed by Zandra Rhodes, some have as many as 19 layers.

“They’re not heavy,” Matanovic said. “I’ll tell you what’s heavy: our wigs. They’re big. If I reach up, I can’t even touch the top of it.”

The spirits’ costumes include silver shoes, knee-high socks, wings and “bright, curly, red wigs,” Richardson said.

Thor Wedow, Seattle Opera’s guest conductor, said Richardson and Matanovic have promising careers ahead of them. He called Richardson “focused and sincere,” praising his maturity and “beautiful voice.”

As for Matanovic, “She is just going to have a great career because she is such a gifted singer,” Wedow said. “She is willing to try everything. It’s not about her. It’s about the show.”

On the Web

Read about ‘The Magic Flute’ on the casts’ blog. Go to www.seattleopera.org and click on ‘blog.’

If you go

‘The Magic Flute’

  • 7:30 p.m. May 11, 13-14, 18, 20-21
  • 2 p.m. May 15
  • McCaw Hall
  • 321 Mercer St., Seattle
  • Tickets are $25 to $218.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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