Kenan Rehearsal Hall at UNC Chapel Hill was nearly filled to capacity with children and parents eager to hear the Chapel Hill Philharmonia play selections from Mozart’s famous opera Die Zauberflöte, or The Magic Flute. An array of soloists, mostly current students or graduates of UNC Chapel Hill, performed the various roles of the opera with the Philharmonia. Since the concert was geared towards young children, it was more interactive; rather than sitting in chairs with their parents, children sat in a group directly in front of the orchestra and soloists, allowing the soloists to sing directly to their young audience. Narrator Stafford Wing explained the opera’s story in between each number, often speaking his synopsis in the form of humorous rhymed verse.
The first selection was, naturally, the Overture to the opera; a playful flute melody was introduced among the other instruments, hinting at the theme of the opera. The first vocal selection was Papageno’s aria “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja,” sung by Evan Adair with humorous expression. Costuming was minimal, but the half-bird-half-man Papageno was depicted with several colorful feathers. When Adair mimicked playing the flute with a sparkly party whistle, he was successful in making the children laugh, involving them in the storyline of Mozart’s work. The prince Tamina’s first aria “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön” was sung by Drew Meyer, who provided a contrast to the previous selection with a wistful love song.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was decidedly the performance of Díana Thompson, a professional coloratura soprano who played the role of the powerful Queen of the Night. With “O zitt’re nicht,” she introduced herself as a mysterious and stately character, but later, in “Der Hölle Rache,” she was convincingly angry and devious. Both of these arias contained impressive vocal runs, showcasing the difficulty of operatic singing clearly to children, parents, and the rest of us. Thompson depicted the duplicity of the Queen, whose composed anger sometimes leads to desperation.
The Queen’s character is contrasted with the character of her (supposed) daughter Pamina, especially with the aria “Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden.” Slow string pulses accompanied the mournful tune, sung convincingly by Charlotte Jackson. Kayla Hill also shared in played Pamina, singing the duet “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” along with Nick Danker as Papageno. This duet, in an elegant slow waltz tempo, is romantic and pastoral. Notably, a beautiful horn melody is interwoven between phrases here. In addition, the expert dynamic control of both singers and the orchestra was apparent.
To close the concert, the Philharmonia performed Strauss’s energetic "Radetsky March," and the children were invited to play little plastic flutes and dance around to the music, which was quite charming. Also, conductor Donald L. Oehler allowed several children to “conduct” the orchestra in his place, which rounded out the interactive event.
The CHP's season continues with "Musical Travels" on December 7. For details, see our calendar.