Spirits, serpents and Sarastro, oh my! Sonoma State University’s Theatre Arts and Dance Department’s spring production has arrived with their adaptation of German composer Emanuel Schikaneder libretto, “The Magic Flute.”
The two-hour, two-act, nine-scene opera follows Talimo, portrayed by James Leng, a prince on a path to true love. To the musical stylings of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the hero’s journey begins after Talimo narrowly escapes the wrath of a giant snake and awakens to a new acquaintance, Papageno, and three spirits who show him a portrait of the queen’s daughter, Pamina. Love at first sight prompts the duo into rescue missions and tests of loyalty, primarily solved by using the power of the magic flute and magic bells.
“A big theme visually is folk art,” said set designer and senior Kris East. “The show is very large, bright and colorful.”
East has designed eight large pieces exhibited during the show including a water fountain, a moon and a rainforest piece inspired by a Thoreau painting.
On stage, more than 40 on-and-off stage hands deliver the two-century-old opera with the help of a full orchestra featuring a majority of the Santa Rosa Symphony, as well as students from the Sonoma State Symphony. More than 80 costumes were created by senior Samantha Summerfield, while the lights are designed and orchestrated by senior Lauren Eckis.
And with the help of alumna Mary Nagler, MFA, art students “not only built the puppets [in the show], but learned to inhabit [their] personalities,” said production manager Juliet Pokorny. The crew varies in class level, areas of study and age; as do the opera’s characters. “Most of these people don’t know each other, but they’re coming together to tell a story.”
Off stage, the students have been preparing and rehearsing twice a week minimum since August. Constant collaboration, according to Pokorny, “[builds the muscle used for] seeing something through someone else’s eyes, anticipating what they want and what will ultimately better the bigger picture.”
“When you hear ‘opera,’ you think people in costumes singing the whole time,” said senior and music education major Malik-Charles Wade I. Wade portrays Papageno, the bird catcher.
“The Magic Flute” will be his second Sonoma State production, following “Into the Woods.”
“But it’s a whole production with a new style,” said Wade. “Can’t knock it till you try it.”
A chance to witness final preparation and setup for opening night rises on Feb. 21 when the Theatre Arts Department partners with Studio Blue to live stream backstage interviews, orchestra set-up, set changes and more on Lobo Vision starting at 6 p.m.
The seductive flute speaks for itself beginning Feb. 23 until March 5 in Evert B. Person Theatre. Visiting students, seniors and general admission tickets will have a fixed rate of $5 for “$5 Friends and Family Night,” March 2. While current students, faculty, staff and alumni are free. For the remaining dates, SSU students are free with ID, $10 for seniors and visiting students, $15 for faculty and staff, and $17 for general admission. Tickets can be purchased through the Sonoma State Performing Arts Box Office.