Kendal Waters | Contributing Writer
Crowds bustled in through the doors. Eager whispers passed through lips as everyone made their way to their seats. Bodies jostled together and almost climbed over each other as every chair in the theater was filled with supporters of OSU’s production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
The students and staff of OSU put on a wonderful and imaginative rendition of this famous singspiel opera during the opening night, this past Saturday. The performance took place at the Majestic Theatre, in Corvallis.
Once seated, the audience was able to look upon the ingenious layout of the stage, which integrated a classic feel with modern day technology. Strategically placed television screens that had been fashioned with steel and rivets created a rustic and modern atmosphere. The screens displayed the image of the playbill until the lights dimmed and a hush fell over the crowd.
A single spotlight fell upon the conductor, Steven Zielke, as he rose from below the stage to address the patrons with a bow. The instruments started the overture as the screens changed to show helpful tips about turning off one’s cell phone, and giving the audience general information and praise for supporting the opera.
As the music swelled, Craig Irby rushed the stage as Tamino, the prince. The lights dimmed and the stage televisions depicted a serene forest, as well as the terrifying visage of a snake. Irby sang in sultry tones, pleading in German for the Gods to save him, all the while translated over the screens at the front of the stage. The plot unfolds as the audience is introduced to Papageno, a bird catcher played by Josh Rist; the Queen of the Night, played by Laurel Mehaffey; her daughter Pamina, performed by Ashley Barrett, and an array of other colorful and intriguing characters. To experience more of the excitement, magic, and ingenuity this play has to offer, you will have to go and see it for yourself.
The costumes of the play depict a classic style with a steam-punk twist, integrating The Magic Flute and Mozart into the twenty-first century. Between the costumes and the technology on stage, a new and exciting world is created for Mozart’s masterpiece.
“The idea of the Magic flute is they go to this kind of land that is bizarre and weird,” Zielke, the music director, said. “How do you do that on the stage? Obviously with enough money, you could do it, but it takes creativity to create something that fantastic. [Viewers] in the twenty-first century can see that and go ‘wow, that’s weird.’ It’s got to be weird, or it’s not The Magic Flute.”
Throughout the play, the spectators go from sitting on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the next plot twist, to holding their sides from hearty laughter at the hilarious actors and their depictions of their characters. Josh Rist as Papageno, in particular, stirred quite a few laughs from the crowd.
“It came from growing up in a big family, we would just make each other laugh, the bigger the better, so it transferred pretty well onto the stage,” said Rist. “Just go for it, that’s kind of the trick. Lots of energy, that’s what people love.”
Besides the amazing acting talent, the opera definitely showed off the wonderful singing abilities of everyone involved. The two female leads hit high notes that most vocalists today would not be able to pull off without ripping a vocal cord or two.
Both female leads have been practicing diligently for a long time to be able to sing the parts they have been assigned. The Queen of the Night, Laurel Mehaffey, sang out the highest F in existence that is written for operatic roles.
“Outside of choir, rehearsal, and lessons, [Mehaffey] spends at least two hours extra per day practicing just on her own,” said Megan Sand, the President of Friends of OSU Opera. “It’s a huge commitment to prepare this kind of stuff. It’s a muscle, like anything else, and they have to keep it in shape. They have to spend a lot of time building up to these roles.”
If it takes a long time to become great at something, then Barrett definitely has been aiming for greatness longer than most as a long-time vocalist.
“I’ve been training for it since I was eleven, so it’s kind of what I do. I love it, though. I mean, it’s the funnest thing I can think of,” Barrett said. “I wanted to take voice lessons because I wanted to be a pop singer. I would sing in the backyard, and my neighbor told my parents one day, ‘you need to get her into voice lessons, she’s got a good voice, she needs to be trained,’ so I started taking lessons. On my third lesson, the teacher played a Charlotte Church CD and said, ‘I think you can do this,’ and I laughed at him. And then the next week I had learned all the songs from her album.”
With all of the astounding effort that was put into the production, it is no wonder that the opening night was such a wild success. This opera showcased the talents of both students and directors, and the entire crowd was blown away by the performance. Both patron and performer alike should be proud to be surrounded by a community in which talent erupts from every direction.
The remaining performances will be held April 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m., and the final performance will be on the April 29 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now at oregonstate.edu/dept/theatre and students get a discounted price.