Barn Review

Baritone Scott Ballantine is Papageno and soprano Jessica Jane Jacobs, Pamina, in the Barn Opera production of “The Magic Flute” at Brandon Town Hall.

BRANDON — “The Magic Flute” is Mozart’s fairy tale opera — though it has some subtly serious undertones — and fledgling Barn Opera’s production turned it into a bedtime story for children and adults. In fact, all the characters were dressed in pajamas.

Still, there was nothing childish about the high quality of singing at Friday’s opening night performance at Brandon Town Hall. It was repeated Saturday.

In founder and Artistic Director Joshua Collier’s version, a grandfather tries to convince his young grandsons of the value of opera, by delivering the Shikenader-Mozart tale as a bedtime story. Although it was a bit funky, it largely worked.

“The Magic Flute” uniquely was written for the vaudeville stage rather than the formal opera house. The tale is of the handsome Prince Tamino who, at the behest of the Queen of the Night, attempts to rescue her daughter, the beautiful Princess Pamina, from the wizard Sirastro. But joined by the hapless bird catcher Papageno, Tamino soon finds that not all is as it seems.

It’s an imaginative and witty adventure and everyone — well, almost everyone — lives happily ever after.

The Barn Opera production was minimal, and the singing was excellent. Making it all work was pianist Claire Black, who delivered the orchestra part with clarity and flair.

Scott Ballantine delivered a stellar performance as Papageno, the real star of the opera. Not only did Ballantine use his light attractive baritone with skill and nuance, he imbued it with charm and wit. And his Papageno was at once terribly funny and deeply sympathetic.

Jessica Jane Jacobs was also most sympathetic as Pamina. Although she overpowered the lines a couple of times with her brilliant soprano, her performance was beautiful and could be deeply moving. In the thankless role of the much too earnest to even like Tamino, Spencer Viator sang beautifully, with his beautiful and expressive tenor.

Soprano Heather Bobeck, though ill at the time, delivered most of the Queen of the Night’s vocal fire — and vocal pyrotechnics — quite convincingly. (This role is as terrifying for the singer as it is supposed to be for the audience.) Luke Scott had real presence as Sirastro as only a real bass can, while tenor D.J. Tetrault was most entertaining as the lusty Monastatos.

Casey Corvino, Evangelia Leontis and Joelle Lachance were delicious as the Three Ladies who do the Queen of the Night’s biddings. Soprano Andrea Wozniak was charming both theatrically and vocally as Papageno’s love interest, Papagena.

While most of the singers were visitors to Vermont, three did their state proud. Grace Lane, Emma Greenwood and Isabella Dunn, high school students and members of Sarah Cullins’ Youth Opera Workshop of Vermont, as the Three Spirits, sang and acted at a level that felt seamless among their professional brethren.

The youngest element of the production was provided by students from Brandon’s Neshobe Elementary School who performed charmingly as animals of the forest, as well as two boys enjoying the story.

Theatrically, the Barn Opera production was more aspiration than success. “The Magic Flute” is of a larger scope than anything previously attempted by the small company, so technical glitches abounded. Still, the mix of the brilliance of the opera and the high quality of the performances made everything work.

Given the quality of Friday’s performance and the breadth of its audience, Barn Opera makes the point that opera is for just about everyone. It’s real community opera.


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