Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE should appeal to fans of musicals, one performance left.

THE MAGIC FLUTE, an opera by Mozart with spoken dialog, shortened and sung in English with projected subtitles, conducted by JoAnn Falletta, stage directed by Paul Mockovak and Julie Newell, with Adam Luebke, chorusmaster, featuring the Hillman Opera Program at SUNY Fredonia, will be presented again by The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Two performances only, Saturday, April 22 at⋅7:30 and Sunday, April 23 at 2:30 at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo, NY, 14201. 716-885-5000

Runtime: 2 hours 40 minutes with one intermission

L-R John Tiranno as Tamino, Michael Hawk as Papageno, James Harrington as Sarastro

THE MAGIC FLUTE is often cited as a good way to get young people interested in opera.  There’s a villain, the villain’s boss who really turns out to be a good guy, a damsel in distress, her mother who’s really annoyed with her damsel-daughter, a brave but clueless hero, a goofy birdcatcher and his girlfriend, and of course lots of great tunes by Mozart.  And, it’s technically not an opera, but a “singspiel” (German for “sing – speak”) with the dialog spoken, making it very, very similar to musicals.

On the SUNY Fredonia Campus, the Hillman Opera Program has been providing funding and venues for over 60 years, presenting operas with a mix of talented students and professionals.  For years as well, JoAnn Falletta and The Buffalo Philharmonic have been presenting operas as well as musically enhanced plays (most recently Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST with incidental music by Sibelius and before that A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM with incidental music by Mendelssohn).  This is all to say that it ain’t their first rodeo. 

All the orchestra’s principal section leaders were on stage with concertmaster Nikki Chooi leading the charge.  We didn’t get a substitute, fill-in orchestra.  We got the best of the best, led by their Music Director, JoAnn Falletta.  And they sounded great.

JoAnn Falletta (center) with The Queen of the Night and her Ladies

The costumes were wonderful (Laurel Wlaford, Wardrobe Head) and the whole production was nicely lit and stage managed by Wayne Murphy, Jr.  Given that Kleinhans is a concert hall, and not an opera stage, it was all quite enchanting.

As usual with productions of THE MAGIC FLUTE, if done right, the role of Papageno, the comic relief, the hapless guy who just wants to meet a girl, gets the biggest applause at the end, and visiting artist Michael Hawk did it right.  Giggles from the audience all night long and of course, big shouts at the end.

At one point, after he passes a test, he meets his soul-mate, Papagena, and they sing the charming “Pa-pa-pa-pa” duet which also charmed the audience.

The story of THE MAGIC FLUTE is the same as all “sword and sorcery” movies that you grew up with.  The brave hero (Tamino, beautifully sung by tenor John Tiranno) is on a quest, here to rescue a damsel in distress who has been kidnapped by a bad guy (Monostatos sung by Jordan Pitts) who is the slave of the head of a temple (Sarastro, sung by James Harrington) who is at odds with “The Queen of the Night” (Lucia Flowers) and has allowed the kidnapping of her daughter, Pamina (Mary Hangley).

As we learned from Joseph Campbell (author of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”) all heroes need a non-heroic sidekick, and for Tamino it’s the birdcatcher Papageno.  Heroes also need some sort of magic talisman (magic beans, or a magic sword, whatever) and so, to help them, the Queen of the Night’s Three Ladies (Margaret Eighmy, Stephanie Foley Davis, and Amanda Bottoms) provide them with magic bells and a magic flute, which if played, will get them out of trouble.  Hence the name of the opera.

Three Spirits L-R Abigail Brudz, Alexandra Bastian, Erin Colaluca

I was particularly charmed by a trio of three Fredonia students in the roles of the three spirits who also help our heroes:  Abigail Brudz (who put everything into her performance and is a name to look for, I’d say to local directors, in the future) assisted by Alexandra Bastian and Erin Colaluca.  

I know that there are hundreds if not thousands of high school musical performers out there and this production of an opera (again, actually a “singspiel” meaning that the dialog is spoken in between the songs) would be an excellent way to broaden their experience.  

There are four more “opera-tunities” this Spring to enjoy operas in Buffalo.  

CHAMPION, a modern opera by jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard, written and sung in English, will be shown live from the Metropolitan Opera in NYC in HD transmission locally in three theaters on Saturday afternoon, April 29, at the usual start time of 1:00 pm. The local participating theaters are: 

The Dipson Amherst, 3500 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14226

The Regal Elmwood 16, 2001 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14207

The Regal Transit, 6707 Transit Road, Williamsville, NY, 14221

DIDO AND AENEAS, by Henry Purcell, directed by Dr. Jessie Downs, will be offered one night only, Friday, May 5th at 7:30 pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, 695 Elmwood (at the corner with West Ferry).  The event is open to the public on a pay-what-you-can basis, with a suggested donation of $25. This year’s performance will be fully staged, with up-and-coming operatic vocalists arriving from Florida, Maryland, and New Jersey to play the roles of Dido, Belinda, and Aeneas.  Baroque string specialists will also be coming in from Chicago, Detroit, and Rochester.  The UU Choir will serve as the chorus.  (716) 885-2136

THE MEDIUM and THE TELEPHONE, two 1940s operas by Gian Carlo Menotti, written and sung in English, will be presented in the usual double bill format by Buffalo Opera Unlimited on Friday, June 2nd at 7:30 pm and Saturday, June 3rd at 5:00 pm in the  Warren Enters Theatre at Buffalo State University.  For information, contact (716) 882-1692 or visit

THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, by Rossini, sung in Italian with English supertitles, will be presented by Nickel City Opera with two performances only in two different venues. Saturday, June 24th, 7 pm show will be at Nichols Flickinger Performing Arts Center, 1250 Amherst Street, Buffalo, and the Sunday, June 25th, 5 pm show will be at the Hollywood Theater, 39 W Main Street, Gowanda.

Kleinhans Music Hall is at “3 Symphony Circle” Buffalo, 14201 where Porter Avenue, Richmond Avenue, North Street and Wadsworth meet at a traffic circle.  Visit or call 716-885-5000.  Full-service bar in the lobby or across the lobby in the Mary Seaton Room.  Masks are optional.

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