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Earnest ‘Flute’ played at Flushing Town Hall

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Saturday night’s performance of The Magic Flute by the Asian-American Opera Society at Flushing Town Hall was an earnest, if not magical, endeavor.

Under the direction of conductor Dong Wook Park, Mozart’s score was elegantly performed by the Eurydice Opera Orchestra, and there were some standout performances among the singers, though the production lacked the passion and dramatic punch one expects from opera.

Sung in Korean and set in Korea, the names of the principal characters were changed for this production: Tamino is called Domi; Papageno is Pano; Sarastro is Zara; and the Queen of the Night is The Red Bean Soup Woman.

Of special note was Song Hee Lee’s arrestingly beautiful choreography for the production, including her own performance as the Crane. Myung Choi’s traditional costumes, especially the Red Bean Soup Woman’s towering white robes, Pami’s lovely pink gown, Domi’s green and blue ensemble, the Maids’ costumes and the colorful garb worn by the company in the finale, greatly enhanced the look of this production, while Jung Bae Park’s Korean folk instruments added a new dimension to the orchestra. Hee Jung Kim’s minimalist sets, made up of movable panels with stylized scene painting, were both functional and pleasing to the eye.

Tenor Bob Choe played Domi, the young prince who falls in love with the image of the beautiful Pami, daughter of the Red Soup Woman, who has been imprisoned in a temple by the evil priest Zara. Domi heeds the mother’s plea that he rescue her daughter and is given a magic flute to protect him. When he finally reaches the temple, however, he finds the priest to be a good and honest man who is actually protecting Pami from her wicked mother’s evil influence. As Pami, Kathleen Jihyun Kim’s sweetly soaring soprano stood in stark contrast to Choe’s solid but restrained vocal style.

Zara, the wise priest, played by popular singer Hyun Myung O, makes it clear to Domi and Pami that true love is forged in the crucible of adversity and that the young lovers will have to survive trials of water and fire in order to be together.

Baritone Sang Kyun Choi, as the comical Pano, a jolly but lonesome bird catcher who reluctantly accompanies Domi on his quest, flat out stole the show. Pano, a liar and a coward who pines for female companionship, cannot control his impulses long enough to satisfy the trials he must pass in order to find his soul mate. Choi’s delivery and timing were exquisite, and his voice splendid.

Yu Jim Choi’s striking aria as the venomous Red Bean Soup Woman provided some much needed vocal fireworks. During any opera performance, the audience anticipates a moment when the singers might transport them to another plane. One such delicious moment was served up during the Priests Duet in Act II, “Upon This Bitter Path of Life,” sung by tenors Jung Hoon Kim and Jacob Hwang. Bravo!

Pano finally learns to behave himself and wins the love of Pana, played by the lovely Hyun Jee Yoon, and the two sing an endearingly funny duet before a finale in which the company celebrates a gorgeous traditional Korean wedding ceremony, officiated by the grandfatherly Zara, in which the two happy couples are joined in marriage.

In a production marked by grace and technical excellence, the generally reserved performances, with the exceptions noted above, kept this opera earthbound.

The performance of “The Magic Flute” was done in honor of the 100th anniversary of Korean immigration to the United States. Flushing Town Hall currently has a photo exhibit up marking the century of Korean immigration.

Flushing Town Hall will host a three-part series titled “Opera Interactive,” which will feature a performance of “Madama Butterfly in November, “La Boheme” in March and “Aida” in May. Following the performances visitor will be able to sit with conductor Vincent LaSelva of the New York Grand Opera Co.

For more information on the Opera Interactive series or other events at Flushing Town Hall, call 718-463-7700.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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