Delaware Valley Opera Company’s ‘Magic Flute’

A steampunk night at the opera

There was little stage magic in the Delaware Valley Opera Company’s lighthearted, English-language version of The Magic Flute, but plenty of charm. The imaginary world suggested by the costumes and sets was billed as steampunk, but the production design and the broadly comical business were more reminiscent of the vaudeville era, with newsboys on scooters as the Three Spirits, a befeathered can-can dancer as Papagena, and a spectacular Art Deco Queen of the Night.

Erté's Art Deco take on the Queen of the Night.

The only instrumentalists were a flautist, a piccolo player, and an endlessly energetic piano accompanist, music director Ting Ting Wong, so the fine vocalists made most of the music. Timothy Oliver (Tamino) and Tracy Sturgis (Pamina), familiar faces to fans of professional choirs in the Philadelphia area, sang their demanding roles capably and lyrically. The heart-wrenching arias of the hero and heroine during their trials seemed pale without strings playing, but the absence of an orchestra made it possible to hear much more clearly Mozart’s splendid writing for the many ensemble pieces.

Milo Morris was an impressive Sarastro with an unusually sunny disposition. Whether she was beguiling or raging, the excellent coloratura soprano Brynn Terry (Queen of the Night) threw off sparks when she sang. Her three ladies in waiting also had comedic chops to match their vocal skills.

The scenery was extremely simple in this low-budget production: two flats with painted trees sprouting arcane symbols and two-dimensional wooden frameworks suggesting the façade of the temple of wisdom. What the sets lacked was supplied by the varied and effective lighting design. The singers were not miked; it wasn’t necessary with the auditorium’s good acoustics and the audience’s closeness to the stage in the ultra-steep seating. A few times the state-of-the-art digital audio system emitted unnecessarily loud thunder.

The DVOC has adult singers of all ages in its chorus, and in this show it included young talent as well. Besides the note-perfect trio of boy singers, there was a quintet of girls (choreographed by Anne Margaret O’Malley) who danced during several scenes as forest animals or nymphs. Three high school boys clowned in nonspeaking parts as guards.

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