Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone...

[Musical theatre sing-along]: …a Comedy To-night!" OR fans may encounter Sondheim's tag from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum NOT because we are programming his first musical comedy hit, but for the other musical comedies on the horizon.

This Saturday, May 10, the MET "Live in HD" season concludes with Rossini's sparkling version of the Cinderella story, La Cenerentola (click here to see more info and a preview video of superstar Kansan and mezzo extraordinaire Joyce DiDonato).


While I will not be able to attend our screening at Virginia Western Community College (tickets and info here), members of the OR team will be on hand to share info about our 2014-15 season, which - funnily enough - features "Comedy Tonight" as one of its tag lines. We'll end our 39th season next Spring with a new production of Rossini's Cenerentola, our first-ever in the Jefferson Center.

Next week, I have the pleasure of making my local professional directorial debut at W&L, May 13 & 15. I've been working with colleagues and music students on Offenbach's spoof of the famous European salons and soirees, Mr Choufleuri restera chez lui (which we're doing in English as "Mr Cauliflower Will Be at Home for Dinner"). More info is on our homepage. We are having a blast!


If opera fans only know Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, then his zanier one-acts (he wrote some 90 operettas!) may come as refreshing palette cleansers. "Mr Choufleuri" provides a glimpse into why Offenbach not only helped launch the genre known as Viennese operetta, but influenced Gilbert & Sullivan, and musical comedy in English to this day. Rossini called him "Mozart of the Champs-Elysées," and Nietzsche credited him with the "supreme form" of operatic "wit." One could do far worse...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

IN UNIS: FOR MODERNS | L2P @ TMA | 3.IV.12 | 20.30 hours

I'll decrypt the title in a sec: Listening to Paintings
at the Taubman Museum of Art, April 3, 2012, 6:30 p.m.

I will be sharing my seasonal presentation, L2P, blending the visual arts with music and poetry Thursday night at the Taubman, and its FREE, as part of their hip "Thursday Night Live" Series. When asked to describe "what is it?" I usually reply with a boring-sounding description like: "multi-disciplinary, lecture-recital, poetry reading, &/or gallery tour…" Does that help?

But we always have fun, and stimulating questions or comments are always part of the relaxed but seriously artful hour.

(Below, "Mask," by Martin Johnson)


I'll be focusing on a mere two of the 1/2 dozen cool galleries recently (re-) opened: Martin Johnson's mesmerizing show of genre-bending work (curated by our friend, Ray Kass), and the stunning show of from the VA Museum of Fine Arts, European Masters. The latter exhibit starts with Ingres & Delacroix, then proceeds like a "who's-who" of twentieth-century art, an art-history crash-course in one room.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review of Giulio Cesare by Timothy Gaylard (RSO critic for the RT)

For those of you don't know, Tim and I are old friends - I taught with him at W & L when I first came to the region in 1996 - and since he has also been employed by OR (Steven asked Tim, Amy & I to do a Shakespeare recital for an awesome all-Shakespeare season in 2008-2009, I believe) - Tim is not allowed to review the opera for the Roanoke Times. This should explain the irony of the one character for whom he reserves criticism. Hint: this character was not onstage until the opera was over… I love it!

Let's hope they'll at least print it as a letter to the editor…

(Wes Mason, as Achilla with Teresa Buchholz, in the title role)

Julius Caesar at Opera Roanoke by Timothy Gaylard

The many moods of Handel’s Julius Caesar by Opera Roanoke were on display Friday night because of a talented singing cast and a responsive orchestra. This Baroque opera seria is a challenge because of its length, its difficult vocal writing, its convoluted plot and its requirement of elaborate visual effects. On all these counts, the company delivered a winning rendition, sparking an appreciative standing ovation at the end of the evening.

Of the many standout vocal performances, the title role of Caesar, played by mezzo soprano Teresa Buchholz, was particularly impressive because of a warm tone, a flexible technique and a charismatic stage presence. She was partnered well by Amy Cofield Williamson as Cleopatra, who played the famous Queen as a playful and seductive creature with changeable and complex feelings. Cofield Williamson dispatched all her arias with finesse, displaying an incredible vocal range and control, from the sustained beauty of “Piangero” to the fast coloratura of “Da tempeste.”

Carla Dirlikov played the crucial role of Cornelia with great expression and dramatic conviction. When she was joined by Toby Newman as Sesto in the moving duet “Son nato,” the effect was magical. Newman succeeded well in presenting her character as an impetuous and tortured young man. The male singers were equally as impressive. Eric Brenner sang the difficult part of Tolemeo with a colorful counter-tenor voice and he was both amusing and menacing in his characterization. Wes Mason revealed the many shades of his finely-wrought baritone, while the imposing Andrew Potter sang with a firm, but flexible bass.

Of the smaller roles, Angela Theis was especially memorable as Nireno, providing a clear, well-produced sound. Various members of the chorus and cast doubled effectively as soldiers, servants, and supporters. The ensemble for the final chorus was nicely balanced and projected. Scenes of Ancient Egypt, whether in a garden, a throne-room, a bedroom, or a battlefield, were aptly suggested by various re-arrangements of elements within a versatile main set. The steep staircases posed some physical challenges for the cast. Costumes and makeup, especially for Cleopatra, were visually stunning.

In the pit, Scott Williamson got the best out of his orchestral players, from the delicate strings to the seamless winds. The noble sound of Wally Easter’s horn in Caesar’s “Va tacito” was almost perfectly played. Only occasionally did Williamson push the tempi beyond what was comfortable for the singers. Overall, the production made a strong case for the opera’s greatness and the community around Roanoke should feel proud to have such a fine company in its midst.

Timothy Gaylard is Professor of Music at Washington and Lee University


Amy Cofield Williamson (Cleopatra), Teresa Buchholz (Giulio Cesare) and the cast of Opera Roanoke's Julius Caesar

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rome and Egypt collide in Roanoke: Handel's Julius Caesar in Egypt, Mar 21 & 23

48 B.C.E. Julius Caesar, bold statesman, brilliant general, political genius, dictator - one of the most remarkable men in history - arrives in Egypt, victorious after Civil War in Italy. He meets Cleopatra, legendary Egyptian Queen, symbol of unsurpassed beauty who, as one of the most famous women ever to have lived, has lodged herself into the collective imagination of the world. Egypt itself is embroiled in Civil War. Intrigue. Manipulations. Liaisons. Handel's operatic masterpiece, Giulio Cesare in Egitto.
- Rod Gomez, director.

Rod's note above and my program notes below are included in our playbill. I hope they whet your appetite for Handel.

George Frideric Handel was as cosmopolitan as he was prodigious. A German composer who cut his teeth in Italy before settling in England to become the greatest opera composer of his time, his name has since been synonymous with the sacred Oratorio, of which Messiah is the most famous. The “Hallelujah Chorus,” however, may not have been written, had Italian opera not had its Handelian heyday in 1720’s London. As director of the Royal Academy, a project initiated by his aristocratic patrons, Handel not only initiated one of the richest periods of musical drama; he also helped birth the concept of the season subscription. As one of his founding patrons put it, “The intention of this musical Society, was to secure themselves a constant supply of Operas to be composed by HANDEL, and performed under his direction.” With “his Majesty pleased to let his name appear at the head of it,” the Society had its “Royal” designation and significant political, if not always financial, capital. Handel invested enough talent and energy “in the enterprise over the next eight years, the Academy, though financially disastrous, was an artistic triumph.” Indeed, as many an Impresario has found in the subsequent three centuries, artistic genius alone does not insure sustainability. (But that is another essay…)

(A 1720 portrait of Senesino)

As we have attempted in our production of Cesare, Handel set about hiring the best talent available for his cast and his orchestra. Among those were the famed castrato, known as Senesino, and the celebrated sopranos Cuzzoni and Faustina. “Opera fever gripped the town,” Handel scholar and conductor Christopher Hogwood writes. Quoting a letter from John Gay to Jonathan Swift, “Senesino is daily voted to be the greatest man who ever lived.” Fitting, then, he should create the role of Handel’s greatest hero, Julius Ceasar, for the 1724 season of the Royal Academy. What makes Giulio Cesare a cut above even the best of Handel’s operas is the quality of the score. Not until Mozart would an opera have such depth of character in its vocal writing, nor magnificent color and variety in its orchestration. For Cleopatra’s great “seduction scene” of Caesar [at the top of Act II in the original; in our abridged production, near the end of Act I], Handel calls for a double orchestra and writes a nine-voice accompaniment, one instrument each representing the nine Muses. Critics ascribe an “exotic magnificence” and “spacious sensuality” to this scene in particular, and the entire opera.

If this were an opera with a compelling central couple and mere two-dimensional supporting roles, it might fare no better than a Hollywood flop. While I count myself among the fans of Joseph Mankiewicz’s spectacular 1962 film, Cleopatra, Achillas is a cipher in that 4-hour epic. One would be hard-pressed to leave this live drama without an opinion about that complex general whose character evolves as much as any in the opera. His cunning boss, Cleopatra’s younger brother, Ptolemy (Tolomeo) is anything but a whining teenager in Handel’s vision. After Caesar and Cleopatra, the grieving widow, Cornelia and her vengeance-hungry son, Sesto command our attention and enlist our support. Their duet of lament is one of the most heart-rending, pathos-filled strains in Western music, more remarkable for its formal simplicity and restraint.

At a recent reading, a renowned poet was asked the familiar question, “why doesn’t modern poetry rhyme?” Are you deaf? There’s music everywhere, you just have to listen, was his frank reply. The same applies to the notion that 18th century opera lacks the passion of its 19th century successors. The pathos, passion and humanity are everywhere in Handel’s penetrating musical drama on the nature of relationships - political, familial, and romantic. And it features one of history’s most glamorous couples, singing like their lives depend on it.


In his elegy for Abraham Lincoln, "When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," Whitman writes of the "solitary" thrush, "warbling a song."

In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

Song of the bleeding throat,
Death's outlet song of life (for well dear brother I know)
If thou was not gifted to sing, thou woulds't surely die.

We have a stunning cast of artists who embody this metaphor of the life-and-death relationship the artist commits to with her art. See the drama and hear the music come to life Mar 21 & 23 at the Jefferson Center.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions to all musicians...

Today is St Cecilia's Day. Cecilia is the Patron Saint of Music. November 22 is also the birthday of Benjamin Britten, whom many consider to be the greatest composer not only of English opera, but the greatest the UK has ever produced. Today marks his centenary. Having devoted a significant portion of my studies and career to his life and music, I have been looking forward to this celebration of "Britten 100" for some time. A wonderful introduction to the composer and his beloved home in East Anglia, in the seaside town of Aldeburgh can be found on the Guardian website. The video ends with excerpts from his famous first opera, Peter Grimes, performed on Aldeburgh Beach to mark the centenary.


BBC Radio 3 is also celebrating the occasion with weekend-long broadcasts from Aldeburgh and Snape, where Britten and his partner, the tenor, Peter Pears built a concert hall. Britten 100 is live on the BBC and archived for online listening.

HM, Queen Elizabeth II attended the grand opening of the Snape Maltings Concert Hall in 1967. Britten concluded the program with Handel's Ode for St. Cecilia. The text of John Dryden's famous poem is below. Handel's music and Dryden's poem were both so important for composers their influence can be heard in Mozart's The Magic Flute. "The Power of Music" is a recurring theme, transcending boundaries of historical period, culture and style.

Amy and I will be singing in Handel's Ode for St Cecilia at Greene Memorial United Methodist Church this Sunday, November 24, at 4:00 p.m.

Britten's earliest homage to St Cecilia was his brilliant a cappella setting of W. H. Auden's densely textured "Hymn for St Cecilia's Day." It features a memorable refrain which choral conductors have borrowed for program titles for the last 70 years.

Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 

To all musicians, appear and inspire: 

Translated Daughter, come down and startle 

Composing mortals with immortal fire.



The full text of Dryden's and Auden's respective poems are below. Insatiable readers should also forbear and read Alexander Pope's Ode, which follows. I particularly love the alliterative list at the end of the 6th section when Eurydice (the widow of Orpheus) is evoked:

Yet ev'n in death Eurydice he sung,
Eurydice still trembled on his tongue,
Eurydice the woods,
Eurydice the floods,
Eurydice the rocks, and hollow mountains rung.

Pope's 7th and final verse opens with this harmonious quatrain:

Music the fiercest grief can charm,
And fate's severest rage disarm:
Music can soften pain to ease,
And make despair and madness please.

Poems for St Cecilia | 22 November

John Dryden (1631-1700): A Song for Saint Cecilia’s Day (1687)

From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began:
When nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
'Arise, ye more than dead!'
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And Music's power obey.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell,
His listening brethren stood around,
And, wondering, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound:
Less than a God they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell,
That spoke so sweetly, and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?

The trumpet's loud clangour
Excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger,
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thundering drum
Cries Hark! the foes come;
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat!

The soft complaining flute,
In dying notes, discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whisper'd by the warbling lute.

Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains, and height of passion,
For the fair, disdainful dame.

But O, what art can teach,
What human voice can reach,
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To mend the choirs above.

Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place,
Sequacious of the lyre;
But bright Cecilia rais'd the wonder higher:
When to her organ vocal breath was given,
An angel heard, and straight appear'd
Mistaking Earth for Heaven.

GRAND CHORUS.

As from the power of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator's praise
To all the Blest above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And Music shall untune the sky!
___

W.H. Auden (1907-1973): A Hymn to Saint Cecilia (1940)

In a garden shady this holy lady 

With reverent cadence and subtle psalm, 

Like a black swan as death came on 

Poured forth her song in perfect calm: 

And by ocean's margin this innocent virgin 

Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer, 

And notes tremendous from her great engine 

Thundered out on the Roman air. 

Blonde Aphrodite rose up excited, 

Moved to delight by the melody, 

White as an orchid she rode quite naked 

In an oyster shell on top of the sea; 

At sounds so entrancing the angels dancing 

Came out of their trance into time again, 

And around the wicked in Hell's abysses 

The huge flame flickered and eased their pain. 


Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 

To all musicians, appear and inspire: 

Translated Daughter, come down and startle 

Composing mortals with immortal fire.

II.
I cannot grow; 

I have no shadow 

To run away from,

I only play. 

I cannot err; 

There is no creature 

Whom I belong to, 

Whom I could wrong. 

I am defeat 

When it knows it 

Can now do nothing 

By suffering. 

All you lived through, 

Dancing because you 

No longer need it 

For any deed. 

I shall never be
Different. Love me. 


Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 

To all musicians, appear and inspire: 

Translated Daughter, come down and startle 

Composing mortals with immortal fire.

III.
O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall, 

O calm of spaces unafraid of weight, 

Where Sorrow is herself, forgetting all 

The gaucheness of her adolescent state, 

Where Hope within the altogether strange 

From every outworn image is released, 

And Dread born whole and normal like a beast 

Into a world of truths that never change: 

Restore our fallen day; O re-arrange. 

O dear white children casual as birds, 

Playing among the ruined languages, 

So small beside their large confusing words, 

So gay against the greater silences 

Of dreadful things you did: O hang the head, 

Impetuous child with the tremendous brain, 

O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain, 

Lost innocence who wished your lover dead, 

Weep for the lives your wishes never led. 

O cry created as the bow of sin
Is drawn across our trembling violin. 

O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain. 

O law drummed out by hearts against the still 

Long winter of our intellectual will. 

That what has been may never be again. 

O flute that throbs with the thanksgiving breath 

Of convalescents on the shores of death. 

O bless the freedom that you never chose.

O trumpets that unguarded children blow 

About the fortress of their inner foe. 

O wear your tribulation like a rose. 


Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 

To all musicians, appear and inspire: 

Translated Daughter, come down and startle 

Composing mortals with immortal fire.
___

Alexander Pope (1688-1744): Ode on St. Cecilia's Day
I. Descend ye Nine! descend and sing;
The breathing instruments inspire,
Wake into voice each silent string,
And sweep the sounding lyre!
In a sadly-pleasing strain
Let the warbling lute complain:
Let the loud trumpet sound,
'Till the roofs all around
The shrill echo's rebound:
While in more lengthen'd notes and slow,
The deep, majestic, solemn organs blow.
Hark! the numbers, soft and clear,
Gently steal upon the ear;
Now louder, and yet louder rise,
And fill with spreading sounds the skies;
Exulting in triumph now swell the bold notes,
In broken air, trembling, the wild music floats;
'Till, by degrees, remote and small,
The strains decay,
And melt away,
In a dying, dying fall.

II. By Music, minds an equal temper know,
Nor swell too high, nor sink too low.
If in the breast tumultuous joys arise,
Music her soft, assuasive voice applies;
Or when the soul is press'd with cares,
Exalts her in enlivening airs.
Warriors she fires with animated sounds;
Pours balm into the bleeding lover's wounds:
Melancholy lifts her head,
Morpheus rouzes from his bed,
Sloth unfolds her arms and wakes,
List'ning Envy drops her snakes;
Intestine war no more our Passions wage,
And giddy Factions hear away their rage.

III. But when our Country's cause provokes to Arms,
How martial music ev'ry bosom warms!
So when the first bold vessel dar'd the seas,
High on the stern the Thracian rais'd his strain,
While Argo saw her kindred trees
Descend from Pelion to the main.
Transported demi-gods stood round,
And men grew heroes at the sound,
Enflam'd with glory's charms:
Each chief his sev'nfold shield display'd,
And half unsheath'd the shining blade:
And seas, and rocks, and skies rebound
To arms, to arms, to arms!

IV. But when thro' all th'infernal bounds
Which flaming Phlegeton surrounds,
Love, strong as Death, the Poet led
To the pale nations of the dead,
What sounds were heard,
What scenes appear'd,
O'er all the dreary coasts!
Dreadful gleams,
Dismal screams,
Fires that glow,
Shrieks of woe,
Sullen moans,
Hollow groans,
And cries of tortur'd ghosts!
But hark! he strikes the golden lyre;
And see! the tortur'd ghosts respire,
See, shady forms advance!
Thy stone, O Sysiphus, stands still,
Ixion rests upon his wheel,
And the pale spectres dance!
The Furies sink upon their iron beds,
And snakes uncurl'd hang list'ning round their heads.

V. By the streams that ever flow,
By the fragrant winds that blow
O'er th' Elysian flow'rs,
By those happy souls who dwell
In yellow meads of Asphodel,
Or Amaranthine bow'rs,
By the hero's armed shades,
Glitt'ring thro' the gloomy glades,
By the youths that dy'd for love,
Wand'ring in the myrtle grove,
Restore, restore Eurydice to life;
Oh take the husband, or return the wife!
He sung, and hell consented
To hear the Poet's pray'r;
Stern Proserpine relented,
And gave him back the fair.
Thus song could prevail
O'er death and o'er hell,
A conquest how hard and how glorious?
Tho' fate had fast bound her
With Styx nine times round her,
Yet music and love were victorious.

VI. But soon, too soon, the lover turns his eyes:
Again she falls, again she dies, she dies!
How wilt thou now the fatal sisters move?
No crime was thine, if 'tis no crime to love.
Now under hanging mountains,
Beside the falls of fountains,
Or where Hebrus wanders,
Rolling in Maeanders,
All alone,
Unheard, unknown,
He makes his moan;
And calls her ghost,
For ever, ever, ever lost!
Now with Furies surrounded,
Despairing, confounded,
He trembles, he glows,
Amidst Rhodope's snows:
See, wild as the winds, o'er the desart he flies;
Hark! Haemus resounds with the Bacchanals cries —
— Ah see, he dies!
Yet ev'n in death Eurydice he sung,
Eurydice still trembled on his tongue,
Eurydice the woods,
Eurydice the floods,
Eurydice the rocks, and hollow mountains rung.

VII. Music the fiercest grief can charm,
And fate's severest rage disarm:
Music can soften pain to ease,
And make despair and madness please:
Our joys below it can improve,
And antedate the bliss above.
This the divine Cecilia found,
And to her Maker's praise confin'd the sound.
When the full organ joins the tuneful quire,
Th'immortal pow'rs incline their ear;
Borne on the swelling notes our souls aspire,
While solemn airs improve the sacred fire;
And Angels lean from heav'n to hear.
Of Orpheus now no more let Poets tell,
To bright Cecilia greater pow'r is giv'n;
His numbers rais'd a shade from hell,
Hers lift the soul to heav'n.
___




Monday, November 4, 2013

Art is science, science is art

Collaboration and cooperation are more than buzzwords here in Virginia's Blue Ridge. Among the many colleague organizations with whom we are proud to partner, The Science Museum of Western Virginia is one. Several of our apprentice artists joined Amy and me for their final "Butterflies @ 5" presentation of the season in late September. The following poem was inspired by the few minutes I spent gawking at the moon rock the museum had on display.

At the Science Museum of Western Virginia

This like a dream | Keeps other time, | And daytime is | The loss of this
(from “This Lunar Beauty,” W. H. Auden)

The crystal shivers through
your impossibly old body,
moon-rock, lunar idol,
fascination block on view
here beneath the butterfly
pavilion. I quiver,
circling the pedestal
supporting your extra-
terrestrial mass, which
I expect, any nanosecond
now, to break out, shatter
glass, and streak free
across a room that can’t
possibly cage 33 million millennia.

(September 2013)

No less a scientific genius than Thomas Edison
wrote to the operatic genius, Giacomo Puccini:

"Men die and governments change,
but the melodies of La Boheme will live forever."


(Mark Fisher:
Sounds of an Atlantic Spotted Dolphin)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Opera Review: Musicians Star in the Magic Flute by Timothy Gaylard

Below is a review of Opera Roanoke's October 21st performance of The Magic Flute,
presented by Washington and Lee University.

Musicians star in The Magic Flute by Timothy Gaylard

Opera Roanoke brought a welcome performance of Mozart's beloved The Magic Flute to Lexington last night. The almost sold-out house responded positively to an evening of entertaining theatrical and musical delights. In the overture, the orchestra, comprised of select members of the Roanoke Symphony, demonstrated a cohesive and tight ensemble under the deft direction of Scott Williamson. In particular, the wind section impressed with playing of virtuosic bravura and expressive color. For the rest of the evening, Maestro Williamson and his players provided magnificent support to the vocal cast.

The opera itself featured very talented singers, some of whom were performing their roles for the very first time. At the core of the comedy in this work is the character Papageno, here played by the young baritone Joseph Lim. Not only did he sing beautifully but he endeared himself to the audience with his wit, defiance and petulance. As a serious foil, the role of Tamino was expertly sung by Michael Gallant, whose tenor voice easily negotiated the taxing high tessitura of the part. In the part of his beloved Pamina, soprano Shelly Milam acted with effective pathos and strength and sang with lyrical sweetness. Lindsey Russell, as the Queen of the Night, gamely donned a male costume, but sang with the appropriate force and range, including the famous high Fs, dispatching them with pin-point accuracy. Bass Matthew Curran played the wise Sarastro intelligently, letting his noble humanity shine through and singing the low notes of the role with distinction.

In smaller roles, there were some especial standouts. The Three Ladies, sung by Chelsea Bonagura, Stacy Dove, and Leah Melfi, blended well and vied comically with each other over Tamino in the first scene. Tenor Adam McAllister was suitably scary and menacing in the unsavory part of Monostatos. Andrew Ellis and Andrew Otter were particularly impressive as the Armored Men, intoning powerfully the choral tune in the finale. Keith Reed's baritone was sonorous and weighty in the crucial part of the "Speaker" who leads Tamino on the right path to enlightenment. Anna Sterrett, was amusingly coy as the disguised Papagena and then transformed herself into an energetic and playful Pocahontas look-alike; the "Pa-pa-pa" duet with Papageno revealed a bright and agile soprano voice.

The audience was also treated to the visual delights of animals, birds, a butterfly, and an attractive temple facade, indicating in part at least the historical location of Williamsburg, instead of the traditional setting of ancient Egypt. Members of the chorus did well in convincing us of their American heritage and they sang with a full and effective sound. When the curtain came down, the audience gave the performers a well-deserved standing ovation.

Timothy Gaylard is Professor of Music at Washington and Lee University.