Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” Sung in English
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, Friday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 22, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23
WHERE: Keller Hall, Center for the Arts, UNM campus
HOW MUCH: $10 general public, $8 seniors and UNM faculty and $6 all students. Tickets are available in advance by calling 925-5858, by visiting http://www.unmtickets.com, at tickets offices in the UNM Bookstore, the Pit and at area Albertsons supermarkets or at the door
By David Steinberg
Singers will fill the stage – and the off-stage area- of Keller Hall for the University of New Mexico Opera Theatre’s upcoming production of W.A. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
“There are 55 students in the show including all the principal roles and the chorus. It’s a huge undertaking,” said Sam Shepperson, co-artistic director of the Opera Theatre with Leslie Umphrey.
This is a fully staged and fully costumed production that will have four performances, from Thursday, Feb. 20 through Sunday, Feb. 23.
Mozart’s famous opera is a fairy tale that has something for everyone, Umphrey said.
“It has witches, princesses, a prince and comic relief,” she said.
The production’s major roles are all double cast. “That’s one thing that we’re most proud of,” Umphrey said. “We’re not using one or two or three or four students but using as many as we can to give them the experience of singing a principal role.”
Much of the comic relief is provided by, of all people, the villain Monostatos. Tenors Lucien Daigle and Bryan Garcia are double cast in the role.
“More than anything else, it’s exhausting because the lines flow very quickly. I’m just spitting notes out,” said Daigle, a graduate student in vocal performance.
“It requires me to be solid in my technique and have a lot of stamina in general. And it requires a lot of acting.”
Daigle refers to Monostatos as THE character role in the opera because he is required to act more than the others in the cast.
Daigle graduated from Pius X High School and form the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver before coming to UNM.
Double cast in the role of Pamina, the abducted daughter of the Queen of the Night, are sopranos Ingela Onstad and Estefania Cuevas Wilcox.
“Pamina reminds me of Juliet – of Romeo and Juliet – in that transition from a child developing into a young woman through the opera,” said Wilcox, a native of Medellin, Colombia.
A soprano, she easily identifies with Pamina’s development because she herself has made some important decisions as a young adult – getting married and coming to UNM from Jacksonville State University in Alabama.
“I can extract the essence of those things and apply it to the opera,” Wilcox said.
Her husband, Eric Wilcox, is also double cast in the production. He and Seth Hartwell, both tenors, alternate as Tamino, an Egyptian prince who falls in love with a picture of Pamina and decides to rescue her.
The Wilcoxes, both graduate students in vocal performance, are on stage in different performances of the opera so they won’t be singing opposite each other.
That doesn’t bother them. In fact, both see the value of one being off stage while the other is on.
“We can be there as a spouse for each other instead of just as a colleague. …It makes it easier when one can help the other,” Estefania Wilcox said.
Added her husband: “I think it’s better for me to be an audience member because I prefer the role of supportive husband. … I like to hear her sing. When I’m on state I can’t listen. I have to listen to myself, pay attention to my cues, the words, the blocking.”
Yet they enjoy the moments they’ve been together on stage.
“I do like singing with him,” Estefania Wilcox said. “Beautiful things happen. We love each other so it’s easier to connect.”
Eric Wilcox agreed: “The chemistry is there for the audience because it’s real. Sometimes you don’t have the chemistry with the person playing opposite you.”
Another graduate student who is double cast in the production is Ashley Morgan, who sings two performances as Queen of the Night; Jennifer Perez sings the role in the other two performances.
“It’s a big role. It isn’t an easy thing to sing. She’s just constantly mean to everyone,” Morgan, a soprano and graduate student, said of her character. “Another reason is that it’s vocally challenging because it requires so much technique. I like to call it singing in the stratosphere.”
Her first aria has a lot of fancy coloratura-like fast notes while her second aria is up and down in the soprano range, she said.
Because of the production’s full chorus, Shepperson said, this is the largest number of singers in a UNM Opera Theatre production in the three years he and Umphrey have been the artistic directors.
Opera Theatre is an auditioned class. Students have to pass the vocal audition to get in the class, he said.
Not every performer is a student. Shepperson and Umphrey cast Bradley Ellingboe, UNM’s director of choral activities, as Sarasato, who heads a secret Egyptian religious order. “It’s really not a role a student can sing unless it’s an older student. It requires quite a bit of maturity, vocally,” Shepperson said.
The UNM Symphony Orchestra will be in the pit.