In its annual collaboration with the Ithaca College School of Music, Ithaca College Theater hosted Mozart’s The Magic Flute, a whimsical opera following two friends on their quest for love. The valiant prince Tamino, played by senior vocal performance and television-radio major Nicholas Harmantzis, accepts the Queen of the Night’s request to retrieve her daughter Pamina from the imprisoning Sarastro. Tamino’s companion and bird enthusiast Papageno, played by senior vocal performance and music education major, Seven Humes, tags along, hoping Tamino’s retrieval of his new-found love will grant him a companion of his own.
Sarastro, played by junior vocal performance major Michael Lewis, challenges Tamino and Papageno through a series of trials to prove their worthiness. An opera rife with dichotomies, The Magic Flute calls attention to ignorance and wisdom, trust and betrayal, malice and virtue.
Humes’ brilliantly portrayed the endearingly odd and naïve Papageno in every dimension. His physicality accentuated the humor, his dialogue sweetly added vulnerability and fear, and his beautifully sung arias framed his craft in an opera and not a tragicomedy. In a plume of neon feathers, the audience could literally not take their eyes off of him.
This performance in particular demonstrated how secondary the plot becomes in conjunction with the music. Mengchun Yang’s performed the most recognizable and impressive arias of the evening as the Queen of the Night flawlessly. This aria, amongst others, had not been translated into English. Components kept in German exemplified confusion or distrust. As if the plot were not confusing enough, the added dimension of an unfamiliar language left the audience with only the music to understand.
The disjointed nature of the performance critically, almost harshly required the attentiveness of the senses, primarily that of aural and visual. Production designer Tyler Perry’s abysmal solid colors and minimal set design created a world of physically manifested emotion.
Tamino’s-and the audience’s-assumptions of Sarastro’s malevolence were instantly blinded by the dazzling, ethereal back-drop against Sarastro’s temple. Red drapes clenched with abhorrence and fear at the Queen of the Night’s presence. Thematic elements of maturity, growth, and struggle were all highlighted in the perpetual cascade of wooden stairs.
Each character’s costume exemplified the nature of their existence in its more simplistic, literal form. Papageno’s vibrant coat of feathers displayed his desire for beauty and all things avifaunal. Sarastro and his band of followers stood poised in their immaculate creams and whites. Pamina’s purple sash illustrates her regal identity to be at the forefront of her values. This performance is a sensory experience, extracting the complexities of the soul implemented in the set design and costumes.
At the root of it all was an attempt to express music’s self-explanatory nature when it comes to emotion. We need not know German to interpret communication. We need not plot to appreciate the theater. The music was absolutely flawless and the star of this show.
The Magic Flute will close March 4, at 8 p.m. in the Hoerner Theater in Dillingham Center. Tickets range from $5.50 to $11.