A collaborative "Magic Flute"

Local opera and choral groups come together for production of Mozart’s work

Special to The TribuneApril 3, 2013 

A full production of Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” will bring together a “co-opera” collaboration of Opera San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly’s Student Opera Theatre, professional guest singers, a 35-voice choir with members of the Cuesta College North County Chorus and Opera San Luis Obispo Chorus, and a 38-piece orchestra.

San Luis Obispo is an ideal place for such a collaboration, said Brian Asher Alhadeff, artistic and general director of Opera San Luis Obispo, who is music director and conductor of “The Magic Flute.”

“San Luis Obispo is a thriving arts community geared to choruses, theaters, dance and music. Opera is where all fine arts come together to complement each other,” he said.

“The Magic Flute,” to be performed in Cal Poly’s Spanos Theatre, is a supernatural fantasy that weaves together a combination of comical and serious characters, including magic animals, a serpent, an evil queen, a maiden in distress, two bird catchers, and a prince. It will be sung in English with projected supertitles.

The co-opera singers include 13 voices from the Cal Poly music department who perform leading roles alongside internationally known professional opera singers Ben Gulley, April Amante, Benito Galindo and Jennie Litster. They will alternate performance dates.

This is a great opportunity for the Cal Poly singers, students of Jaclyn Kreitzer in the Opera Theatre. Although they are studying voice in the Department of Music, some of them are majoring in other subjects, Alhadeff said.

“This may be their only opportunity to sing a lead role in opera.”

Kreitzer spent three months teaching the students their roles, while the professional guests were getting ready for their roles elsewhere. Community members and other students covered for them in local rehearsals.

“They arrived on book when rehearsals began in mid-March,” Alhadeff said. These rehearsals included the entire cast, orchestra and chorus. The orchestra also includes six student instrumentalists, recommended by the music department.

The Cuesta College North County Chorus is directed by Cassandra Tarantino and joins the OperaSLO chorus. Opera is a traditional part of choral work, Alhadeff said, but community choruses rarely have the opportunity to perform in that way, so this production is exciting for the singers.

Getting a production with so many elements together is a challenge, Alhadeff admitted, but the groups were eager to cooperate, and the students were familiar with “The Magic Flute” and wanted to participate.

The easy part of collaboration is getting people to sign on, but the logistics of so many groups working together take patience and organization to divide up the responsibilities.

Alhadeff said he sees this sort of collaboration as valuable for all of the classical arts, and grand opera is an opportunity to unify groups.

“Our main job is to perpetuate our knowledge of the art. It’s a tough job, but it’s easier in our community because there is so much art here.”

Classical music has many patrons on the Central Coast, he added.

“The cherry on the sundae is that the Performing Arts Center is designed to be a grand opera house.”

The pit is the key feature, he said: “The pit has to be large enough for the kind of orchestra operas were written for.”

He said it’s a little-known secret that the PAC is the only venue between Los Angeles and Fresno with that design.

Educational outreach works well in the “bubbling” art climate on the Central Coast because arts events are well attended and children are open to new experiences, Alhadeff noted. Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders especially are ready.

“It’s a good age to captivate them. They seem really interested, and it’s my favorite place to work.”

Kids in Opera Camp in the summer enthusiastically performed a version of “The Magic Flute.”

“Now they will get to see a full production.”

IF YOU GO

"The Magic Flute"
7:30 p.m. April 11 and 13
Spanos Theatre, Cal Poly
$9 to $18
756-4849 or www.pacslo.org

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