Opera Review

The Israeli Opera Mozart: ‘The Magic Flute’ Children’s Performance Jerusalem Theater July 30.

‘Marvelous!” “Excellent!” were the responses of the children at the conclusion of Mozart’s Magic Flute, presented by the Israeli Opera in a performance for children, with a wind quintet and a piano substituting for an orchestra.
The significantly shortened version was reduced to a fairy tale plot, mercifully omitting the philosophical, pseudophilosophical, moralizing and sophisticated elements of the libretto. Also omitted, regrettably, was the opening Picture Aria of Tamino, possibly because it overtaxed the capabilities of Nimrod Grinboim’s appealing but not particularly radiant tenor.
Monastatos was deleted altogether, presumably on the assumption that his harassment attempts and racial discrimination implications might not convey an appropriate educational message to little children. So were Tamino and Pamina’s ordeal scenes, perhaps because they were considered too frightening, especially the ordeal of not being permitted to speak. The Three Ladies and Three Boys were amalgamated into one threesome, economizing on man- and womanpower and streamlining the audience’s concentration.
Niv Hofmann and Niv Manor’s direction and sets were child-friendly without being childish, and abstract enough to leave room for imagination.
Among the singers, Lilia Gretsova’s Queen of the Night was the most outstanding.
Her impeccable virtuoso coloraturas would not have been wasted on an adult audience. Rinat Goldmann’s lovely soprano made the audience join Tamino in falling in love with her as Pamina. Gabriel Lowenheim’s communicative baritone and fairly humorous acting successfully won the audience’s sympathy. And as Sarastro, Amit Freedman’s pale bass was less impressive than his sun staff-wielding figure.
Most of the sung texts were hardly intelligible due to unclear enunciation. What is a Hebrew version good for it isn’t pronounced properly? And the piano’s overly loud hammering did not improve matters.
But overall, the Israeli Opera’s performances for children, such as this one, are a commendable undertaking for ensuring a future adult audience.