Opera NEO’s Final Online Installment of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” Provides the Perfect Happy Ending

Followers of San Diego Opera NEO’s online installments of Mozart’s The Magic Flute have been patiently awaiting the arrival of the production’s final chapter since November of 2020. Happily, it was posted Wednesday, just in time, inasmuch as the singers participating in this year’s annual Opera NEO Summer Festival are about to arrive in San Diego.

Sarah Womble & Jóhann Schram Reed [photo courtesy of Opera NEO]

The satisfying denouement of Mozart’s fairy tale opera unfolded with brisk assurance under David Radamés Toro’s sleek direction, offering a final opportunity to hear the production’s fine principals sing one last time. In Pamina’s tender aria “Ach, ich fühl’s,” Sara Womble’s silvery, supple soprano served well both dulcet phrases and splashy coloratura, offering her well-placed high B-flats without apparent effort. In her duets with her lover Tamino, the nimble tenor Andy Michael Zimmerman, these two confident, well-matched voices exhibited the radiant appeal that Mozart’s music gives his noble lead couple as they unite after daunting trials.

Luke Harnish and forest bird [photo courtesy of Opera NEO]

And when they were joined by Jóhann Schram Reed’s burnished, rich bass as the high priest Sarastro, their ensemble soared. Kudos to baritone Luke Harnish and soprano Catherine Moss for their agile comedy and vocal elan as Mozart’s romantic commoners, and to the mellifluous trio of Spirits, Juliet Schlefer, Mary Henriquez, and Miriam Mouawad, who sang so cheerfully their welcome song to Tamino and Papageno at the opening of this episode.

Under the baton of Opera Neo Director Peter Kozma, the largely period instrument orchestra gave the score its due and then some, exuberantly firing this vibrant music without losing the charm of its 18th-century proportions. At times, the score calls for lustrous solos from the instrument that names the opera, and flutist Kristen Kort consistently filled this duty with ample grace and her resplendent sonority.

Next month Opera NEO returns with staged performances for live audience at the Palisades Amphitheater in Allied Gardens. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro opens on August 6 and Handel’s Serse opens on August 13. 2021.

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