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Mozart meets steampunk in F-M Opera's 'The Magic Flute'

Cast members for the Fargo-Moorhead Opera's "The Magic Flute" include Kyle Tomlin as Tamino, Anne Jennifer Nash as Pamina, Holly Flack as the Queen of the Night and, seated, Jonathan Lasch as Papageno. Dave Wallis / The Forum1 / 2
Cast members for the Fargo-Moorhead Opera's "The Magic Flute" include Jonathan Lasch as Papageno, Holly Flack as the Queen of the Night, Kyle Tomlin as Tamino and, kneeling, Anne Jennifer Nash as Pamina. Dave Wallis / The Forum2 / 2

The Fargo-Moorhead Opera's performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" contains the standard elements of every fairytale: a handsome prince, a beautiful princess, an evil queen in a faraway land. The not-so-standard elements? A mad scientist, compasses, bionic arms, goggles and ice. Lots of ice.

In other words, Mozart meets steampunk in the F-M Opera's first performance of its 48th season Friday, Oct. 28, and Sunday, Oct. 30, at Reineke Festival Concert Hall.

For those who may not be familiar, "steampunk" is a subgenre of science fiction that takes place in a Victorian-era alternate universe where electricity and gasoline were never invented and steam is the main source of energy, as explained by David Hamilton, general director of the F-M Opera.

"(Steampunk) is a fascinating way to do 'The Magic Flute,' " he said. "It gives us something a little different than what we did 10 years ago."

Rather than taking place in a typical fairytale setting, this rendition of "The Magic Flute" is set in the arctic, where the Queen of the Night (Holly Flack) has frozen the earth. With the help of a magic flute, explorer Prince Tamino (Kyle Tomlin) searches for love, the truth and a kidnapped princess.

Other lead characters include Anne Jennifer Nash as Princess Pamina and Jonathan Lasch as Papageno. The Queen of the Earth's character is known for singing the highest possible notes in opera. Another character, Sarastro (Aaron Sorensen), sings in the lowest operatic register.

"You have to have the 'chops' (to sing in this opera)," Hamilton said. "There's no hiding behind a microphone."

Director Patrick Hansen, who is also the director of opera studies at McGill University in Montreal, created the steampunk interpretation of "The Magic Flute." His inspiration for the production came from a combination of H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and "The Golden Compass."

Several themes emerge in "The Magic Flute," Hansen said, "(but) the most important theme is the fight between thought and rational thought, and between superstition and the enlightenment."

The Queen of the Night represents superstition, while Sarastro symbolizes rational thought, he added.

Another notable aspect of the production is a set that relies heavily on projections. Some of the projections are images, while others are video or time-lapsed, allowing for fast-paced, seamless scene changes. Hamilton hopes the fast-paced projections and fairytale themes attract new people to the opera, particularly young audiences.

"This is a fantastic piece to bring kids to because it's an engaging story," Hamilton said. "Especially because of the projections and the cool costumes."

Shirley Leiphon, the relationship director of the F-M Opera, also encourages families to attend the opera and said the organization strives to break the stereotype that the opera is only for adults dressed in tiaras and tuxedos.

"We're much more laid back," Leiphon said. "We just want people to come and enjoy the opera in its truest sense."

The ultimate goal, Leiphon said, is to cultivate shared experiences. "A live performance is escapism at the best level, and it gives you something you can talk about as a common experience," she said. "That's one of the great things about musical theater in general." Hamilton agreed.

"We need shared experiences to talk about," he said. "We get in our own little silos — our own little worlds — and we all get fractured. If we come together in the same space to have these wonderful experiences together, then we've got something to talk about rather than things that drive us apart."

If you go

What: The Fargo-Moorhead Opera's steampunk production of "The Magic Flute"

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 and 2 p.m. Oct. 30

Where: Reineke Festival Hall, at the intersection of 12th Avenue North and Bolley Drive in Fargo

Tickets: $5 for children, $40-$80 for single tickets, $75-$160 for season tickets. $5 student rush tickets are also available 15 minutes prior to the show. For this production, the F-M opera is offering a "Pay Your Age" promotion for advanced tickets. Ages 20 to 25 is $20, 26 to 30 is $25, 31 to 25 is $30 and 36 to 40 is $35. Call the F-M Opera box office at (701) 239-4558 for more information. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.fmopera.org.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.

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