Washington National Opera, Nov. 22 2019

Magic Flute is not one of my operatic favorites, but I went to this performance to hear the in-training singers of the NSO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists Program. It was a glorious experience. The quality of singing was excellent throughout – better than I’ve heard from established so-called superstars (see my impressions of Turandot at the Met).

The standout performer was soprano Marlen Nahhas as Pamina. A full, rich voice, with dead-on pitch throughout her range and ability to sustain a long high note with no vibrato. A close second was Alexandra Nowakowski as Queen of the Night, who gave a spectacular performance of high-powered coloratura fireworks. She navigated the treacherous vocal figurations with wonderful ease and grace. Amanda Palmeiro was terrific in the minor part of Papagena (Nowakowski sang this role in all the other performances).

The men were good but not as outstanding. Bass William Meinert as Sarastro was the best, with some sonorous low tones that really resonated. Baritone Samson McCrady as Papageno was also very good. Tenor Joshua Blue did a credible job as Tamino.

Conductor Eun Sun Kim elicited great sounds from the orchestra. This music is more brassy than the usual Mozartean fare, and she brought it off with aplomb.

The production design was by Maurice Sendak, a noted illustrator of children’s books. It was colorful and imaginative, but somewhat static. The singing and dialogue were in English, in a translation by Andrew Porter, with a mixture of rhyming couplets, ABAB rhyme schemes, and non-rhyming blank verse. It worked quite well.