Rising opera stars at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music will be put through their operatic paces when they take to the stage this month to perform Mozart's final and most popular opera of all time.
Opera Australia’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is presented by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Con Opera as part of a longstanding relationship with the national opera company to foster the operatic arts in Australia and internationally.
Music Director Dr Stephen Mould says the Mozart masterpiece will be sung in German in keeping with the original work that Mozart himself conducted for its premiere in Vienna on 30 September 1791, two months before the composer died.
“This is operatic team work at play. There are extraordinary arias by Queen of the Night performed by Esther Song and Aimee O’Neill who, in their iconic arias of hate and revenge, reach some of the highest notes of the operatic repertoire.
"But the complexity of this opera doesn’t just lie in the high notes. Rather, it is about getting a perfect blend of vocal ranges amongst this exceptional cast of flourishing opera stars," said Dr Stephen Mould, Senior Lecturer in Conducting and Operatic Studies, Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
This opera is based on the original Opera Australia production directed by Michael Gow, who took inspiration from Hollywood filmmakers to transform Mozart’s most famous opera into modern times, creating a rollicking adventure in 1930s Egypt in the style of the popular Indiana Jones film series.
Roger Press, guest director with Opera Australia who has worked alongside Michael Gow, will direct the Con Opera production – the first time he has also directed Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
“It is liberating to work with such an adventurous and talented cast. There is a lot of emotion in this opera and the opportunity for personal growth. We have a very spirited group of young stars, and it is this free spirit that Mozart was looking for in his opera,” said Roger Press.
Sydney-born baritone Tristan Entwistle, a Master of Music Studies (Opera Performance) student in his final year will play Papageno. Tristan says The Magic Flute was the first opera he saw as a young child, no more than four or five years old.
“It is like an 18th century Disney film. Love, revenge, magic and betrayal. It’s all there. Papageno is one of the most relatable characters. In a world of mystical queens, heroic princes, magic spirits and forbidden temples, all Papageno wants is a beer and some company. He’s not particularly smart, strong or brave, but finds himself caught in the middle of a quest that he doesn’t quite understand, but gives it is his best shot, failing spectacularly most of the time,” said Tristan.
Samanta Lestavel, a soprano in her final year of a Graduate Diploma in Music (Opera Performance) having completed a Bachelor of Music (Performance) in Classical Voice in 2016, will play Pamina who is at the centre of this quest and timeless story about good versus evil.
“There is so much to love about the role of Pamina. She is a young girl at the tipping point of adulthood, so there is so much to work with to make her relatable to the modern audience. During the opera, she has to establish herself as an individual against her domineering mother, a patriarchal and cult-like group of philosophers, led by her father in this production, while coming to terms with the ups and downs of first love," said Samanta.
Tristan’s character Papageno, ultimately helps Tamino, an archaeologist played by Joshua Oxley, to find his love interest Pamina played by Samanta – all the while Tristan and Samanta are bounded by their own, off-stage romance.
“Tristan and I have a long history of setting each other up on stage, so this is nothing new! There is endless banter at the post-show pub between me and Tristan’s stage-wives and stage-loves and vice versa. We have had a lot of fun over the last three years studying together,” added Samanta.
The cast of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is spectacularly presented in 1930s Egyptian-influenced costumes and sets, and is accompanied by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Opera Orchestra. The opera’s opening night is Saturday 14 October with four performances in all.
Music and theatrical works of Jewish refugee artists fleeing fascist persecution in the 1930s and 1940s will be rediscovered in a one-off festival staged by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the Seymour Centre in August.