In Events, Opera

Director Joshua Lindsay hopes the student singers will embrace their characters and focus on the emotion behind their performances

The School of Music will bring one of Mozart’s most beloved operas to the de Jong Concert Hall stage when “The Magic Flute” opens on Oct. 23.

Savannah Porter (Pamina) and Josie Larsen (The Queen of the Night) in BYU’s “The Magic Flute.” (Rebekah Baker/BYU Photo)

The opera — which follows the tradition of singspiel, a style which features both music and dialogue — centers primarily on Tamino, a prince lost in a magical and unfamiliar land. While the School of Music vocal division will give audiences a fantastical spectacle with an Egyptian flair in the sets and costumes, the music itself remains at the heart of director Joshua Lindsay’s vision for the production.

“This is where Mozart is at his most musically mature,” said Lindsay. “You have some amazing, emotional music here. It’s also accessible for young singers, aside from a few of the arias — it takes a very special singer to be able to sing those pieces, which we have in the School of Music.”

One such piece is the famously difficult Der Hölle Rache,” or Queen of the Night aria. Sopranos Josie Larsen and Tatiana Carlos were double cast in the role of the Queen, giving them a performance experience that has proven to be both stretching and eye-opening.

“This has been a dream role of mine since I started singing at age 11,” said Larsen. “I always knew that the music would be difficult to sing, but I never thought about the character. It’s interesting and challenging to understand a character that is so evil and create depth in the role. She doesn’t think she is evil, she just wholeheartedly thinks that she is right.” 

Throughout the rehearsal process, Lindsay has encouraged the student performers to think about their characters on a deeper level and infuse their music and dialogue — translated into English from the original German — with personality and emotion.

“I’m looking to give students the experience of how to sing in an opera,” said Lindsay. “It’s different from singing toward an audience in a recital or in a concert. In an opera we have an orchestra, a set, costumes and acting on top of that. I want them to learn how to act and sing at the same time, to captivate the audience and to tell the story of the opera. That’s what makes a great performance an amazing performance.”

Jonah Hoskins (Tamino) and Savannah Porter (Pamina) in BYU’s “The Magic Flute.” (Rebekah Baker/BYU Photo)

Lindsay’s holistic approach to the opera has prompted the student singers to fully embrace their roles and push the limits of their current experience and ability.

“The challenge is to make everything look effortless,” said Jonah Hoskins, who plays Tamino, alternating nights with fellow tenor Riley Pierce. “Often while singing Tamino, I feel like a duck swimming on a pond — on the surface it may look like I’m calm, but underneath it’s a frenzy of webbed feet. Mozart gives no one a break in this opera.”

Hoskins and his fellow performers are excited to bring some of the most influential music of the opera world to campus and community audiences.

“‘The Magic Flute’ is Mozart’s last opera, and musically his masterpiece,” said Hoskins. “Within minutes it takes you from the furious high Fs of the Queen of the Night to the bellowing low Fs of Sarastro, and it contains some of the most unforgettable melodies of all time. It would be hard to leave this opera uninspired.” 

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