With little more than costumes and an able-bodied cast Boston Conservatory's opera students delighted audiences Thursday night in a semi-staged production of Mozart's evergreen comedy, "Die Zauberflöte."
Conductor Andrew Altenbach and the orchestral ensemble set the standard with a neat and lively overture, but the cast more than equivocated in comedy, expressivity, and musicality. Considering the singers have their backs to the conductor more often than not, due to the semi-staged set up, the cohesion and precision of the singers with the orchestra was impressive; unity was never a problem for the ensemble.
The cast revealed a striking array of vocal colors and stage strengths. Tenor Trevor Drury's tone was appropriately bright and clear in the role of the strong-willed protagonist, Tamino. He had moments of vocal uncertainty, but seemed to have found his confidence by the onset of Act II. He sang glowingly alongside Pamina and Sarastro in the trio, "Soll ich dich Teurer nicht mehr sehen" and brought a youthful, yet noble bearing to the character.
Marlen Saladin's Pamina was the propelling dramatic force of the show. In the Act I duet with Papageno, "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen," she displayed both her poised demeanor and radiantly fresh tone. Saladin handled the abundance of German dialogue fluidly and the subtle nuances of her vocal inflection bloomed in her anguished "Ach, ich fühl's."
Alessandra Gabbianelli did not possess the typical Mozartian voice type, but delivered the Queen of the Night's infamous arias all the same and with proper ferocity. The range was there, but the highlight of Gabbianelli's Queen of the Night was not in the perilously high, staccato passages, but rather the first half of "O zittre nicht mein lieber Sohn." Her rich lower register made the mother's plea uncommonly gripping and poignant.
Sarastro's cavernous lows were sung with reverberating warmth by Wesley Gentle. His steady bass communicated not stone-cold reason, but a fatherly compassion in his Act II aria, "In diesen heil'gen Hallen;" But where Gentle placated, Simon Dyer excited. His charisma and comedic facility in the role of Papageno had the audience enthralled from start to finish. Of the cast, he delivered his his spoken German with the most fluidity and used this conversational tone to his comedic advantage. Physically, he inhabited the role with endearing mannerisms, hilarious facial expressions, and a cheekiness of tone, both in his spoken and sung lines.
Papageno's encounters with Nelson Bettencourt's scheming Monostatos increased the hilarity and the union of Papageno and his long-lost Papagena, sung coquettishly by Evelyn Tsen, charmed all.
Holding the audience ensnared for close to three hours with only two screens on either side of the stage as backdrops is no easy feat, yet with their charisma and thoughtful portrayals, the Boston Conservatory's young artists achieved no less.
Performances of "Die Zauberflöte" will continue on February 7,8, and 9. Tickets can be purchased online or at (617) 912-9222.