Photo Credit: Mr. Matthan Ring Black
COMMANDOpera spoke with Russian Bass Grigory Soloviov today regarding the prima tomorrow evening of the Chicago Opera Theatre production of The Magic Flute. The artist who essays the role of Sarastro, last performed him six years ago in Rome at the age of 26. Without question Mr. Soloviov’s views of the role have changed over those years, advising COMMANDOpera he regards the Sarastro character not as a stern priest as is often portrayed, but more of a benevolent father figure of great wisdom and forgiving nature. There are more angles for an artist to mine when a character such as Sarastro is given a more three dimensional range.
The role which requires a Basso Cantante who is at ease with a lower register as the two main airs; ‘O Isis und Osiris’ and ‘In diesen heil’gen Hallen’, both sit in the middle, yet dip frequently into the lower register. Mr. Soloviov, who owns a global reputation for his interpretations of Haendel repertoire, makes it clear this Mozart role is on a different order altogether, requiring excellent cantilena technique above all else. COMMANDOpera recognises the juxtaposition of vocal style written by Mozart for The Queen of the Night who is all fire and rage, and the calm benevolence of Sarastro. Quite naturally the Queen would be given a great deal of virtuoso vocal fireworks which perfectly illustrate her enraged mind, while at the opposite end of the vocal spectrum would be the equally difficult cantilena required of Sarastro to counterbalance. When COMMANDOpera inquired as to Sarastro’s opinion of the Queen of the Night, Mr. Soloviov could not help but note these lines with amusement for their particularly period quality:
Pamina: Do not ignore a daughter’s plea: What of my mother?
Sarastro: Speak of her no more, And think what fate would have in store, if I returned you to your mother.
Pamina: How can you keep us from each other. She needs me, she needs me!
Sarastro: A Woman needs a Man to guide her: If she should stray without a man to show the way, then woe betide her.
COMMANDOpera would only imagine that such text could not be managed in todays society under any by the the most conservative.
This new production of The Magic flute is minimalist in style which owns something of a cosmic feel to the sets. The backgrounds are of stars and galaxies, with different sized planets suspended from the rafters which move about from scene to scene, and a pit in the centre of the stage from where a number of actors ascend and descend. The two main colour themes which are found particularly in costuming, are yellow and saffron tones which represent Sarastro and the sun, and black and blue which are representative of the Queen and the night. The lighting modifies characteristically in brightness depending on which protagonist is on stage: an interesting play on ones subconsciousness to be sure. COMMANDOpera was impressed at what was drawn from Mr. Soloviov from this production, which underlines what this venue has heard of the Chicago Opera Theatre: A perfect balance to its sister company, the Lyric Opera. Modern, innovative, and well thought out.
COMMANDOpera closed the interview inquiring after his counterpart, Miss Emily Hindrichs who essays the Queen of the Night. He advised those who attend the performances will encounter a tour de force of solid vocalism, for Miss Hindrichs owns an extraordinarily strong and excellent instrument which is perfect for this off the hook role. Mr. Soloviov particularly noted the welcoming and warm atmosphere from the Chicago Opera Theatre which has made it a particularly pleasurable experience for he and all of his colleagues. Maestro Steuart Bedford was singled out for special praise from the Russian basso given his deep appreciation of this Mozart work; ‘It was nothing short of a great honour and pleasure to have worked with this Maestro’. The Magic Flute will run for four performances until September 23rd. Tickets may be purchased here.