The enduring magic of Mozart's 'Flute'

Opera • Students and community orchestra join forces.
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Robert Breault never gets tired of "The Magic Flute." His students at the University of Utah are getting ready to present the Mozart opera for the third time in his 21 years teaching there. It's their latest collaboration with the Paradigm Chamber Orchestra, a community group conducted by Joel Rosenberg.

The production will be semi-staged, with Rosenberg and his orchestra joining the costumed singers on the Libby Gardner Concert Hall stage.

Breault, director of opera studies at the U., noted that Beethoven ranked "The Magic Flute" No. 1 among Mozart's operas. Even better than the three masterpieces the composer created with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte? Sure, said Breault.

"It doesn't pretend to be anything ['The Marriage of Figaro,' 'Don Giovanni' and 'Così fan tutte'] are," said Breault, a professional tenor who will sing the leading role of Tamino in Utah Opera's production of "The Magic Flute" next month. "It's opera written for the common folks; its appeal is much broader. It's much more of a fable — it's just unapologetic storytelling."

Not that the opera is unsophisticated. "It really is rich," he said. "It has multiple layers. On first hearing, it appeals to people, but I'm probably on my 30th hearing, and it appeals even more."

Breault acknowledged there are plenty of inside jokes in "Magic Flute," mostly stemming from Mozart's and librettist Emanuel Schikaneder's involvement with Freemasonry. The opera has problematic aspects as well, such as Sarastro's misogyny and the cavalier treatment of suicide. But the overriding themes of the story, in which a heroic young couple overcome various trials, are "worth celebrating – valor, bravery, all those things," Breault said.

Catherine Reese Newton —

Magical Mozart

Joel Rosenberg's Paradigm Chamber Orchestra teams up with the University of Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble in a condensed, semi-staged performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." Robert Breault and Jeffrey Price direct the Lyric Opera Ensemble; stage director is Lucas Goodrich. The opera will be sung in German, with spoken dialogue in English.

Where • Libby Gardner Concert Hall, 1375 E. Presidents Circle, U. campus, Salt Lake City

When • Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15 and 16, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets • $10 ($5 for students) at the door