Lush red curtains will rise to reveal beaming rays of sunshine that turn to an ominous sky after an overture on Nov. 17 at Kay Theatre. 

The Maryland Opera Studio, along with students from the University of Maryland’s Choral Activities, will perform Mozart’s Opera The Magic Flute with excitement that once filled the Kay Theatre over 20 months ago. 

Just two days before the first show, I viewed a dress rehearsal in all its glory. 

Within the first 15 minutes of the rehearsal, I was enchanted by the beautiful virtuosity of the principal singers who raised goosebumps with every breath and operatic phrase. 

The Magic Flute is a classic opera that can be enjoyed by all. 

There are recognizable themes that even untrained ears will recognize, making this performance a great way to start an opera-listening journey.

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Amanda Consol, director of the production, shared how The Magic Flute “comes to us from another time, when gender and gender roles were clearly scripted, when race and class defined status without question, and when the body’s wisdom was pushed aside in favor of the brain’s knowledge.”

Craig Kier, director of the Maryland Opera Studio, also touched on the translation from the opera’s origins of the Enlightenment era to today’s context.

“We see a separation of different identities that perhaps now don’t resonate as clearly,” he said. 

As for the production itself, there are many moving parts that are hidden behind more than just a screen.

Kier revealed that much like all seemingly effortless performances, there is always more than just some elbow grease making everything happen. 

“The thing about opera is that it’s a combination of so many different art forms, so whatever you see happen on stage, you know that there are endless costume designers, costume coordinators, lighting designers, set designers,” he said. “There are many people backstage that have worked tirelessly that are artists all in their own [ways].” 

You may not be able to see some working hands, but you can see the tops of the pit orchestra musicians’ heads. The musicians down below will put on quite the show to accompany the performance above them.

TJ Wible, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in flute at this university, sits as the flutist in the pit among a chamber group of winds, strings and percussion. 

There were typical challenges in terms of alignment with both the orchestral accompaniment and lyrical components. But, after rehearsals, these alignments pieced together nicely. The real challenges lie in mastering these performances with two casts. 

“We have two different casts,” Wible shared. “I’ve noticed that tonight’s dress rehearsal is a little bit different from yesterday’s dress rehearsal, so just being able to quickly adjust to those changes. I think that’s probably the most challenging.”

The trials and tribulations of being a musician will never fade over time yet these students continue to emulate professional practices in their studies. Even with challenges students face, such as wearing masks daily, these emerging artists remain resilient even with a piece of fabric covering their mouths. 

“The chance [for] us to all be together making music live and [to] share that with an audience to have the energy between the performers and the audience is something we’ve really missed,” Kier said. 

Kier shared the challenges of flexibility and resilience as every performer’s move on stage must be “honest” and “compelling.”

The cast is primarily master’s opera students with undergraduate voice students in the mix of the chorus.

Francesca Napolitano, a second year master’s student in the Maryland Opera Studio, shared her excitement about being in the production as a long-awaited dream come true.

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Napolitano will play the character Pamina in her first ever live performance with Maryland Opera Studio and she said she is excited to share this story with both familiar opera lovers and novice listeners. 

“This is the first opera I fell in love with and it made me decide that I wanted to be an opera singer,” Napolitano said. “I’ve kind of been dreaming about this particular role since I was, like, 14 years old. So I’m really excited to finally be singing it this week.”

Clare Lillig will also play Pamina on an alternating cycle.

Coordinators, like director Consol, conductors Kier and Jonathan King and principal coach Justina Lee made this dream a reality. 

From only a dress rehearsal, the excitement was palpable and these students were eager to see even masked faces occupying the seats of the Kay Theatre. 

Pamina, Tamino, Papageno and the Queen of Night will await you in the Kay Theatre Nov. 17-21, ready to tell the epic tale of The Magic Flute.