Review by David Richards
Toronto ON January 2nd 2017

The magic began with the opening chords of the overture. The orchestra played with precision, style and an extraordinary balance. I was completely carried away by the joyfulness in the opening themes. Conductor Bernard Labadie had the orchestra playing extraordinarily well. There were many moments in which I wanted to forget the story and just listen to the wonderful music.

I was taken by the fact that so many of the cast were either graduates or current members of the COC Ensemble Studio. It says a lot about the training and development of Canadian artists that the COC can produce an outstanding mainstage production with so many home-grown singers. Tenor Andrew Haji as Tamino was both dramatically and vocally sensational. He combined well with the Russian rising star soprano Elena Tsallagova in the role of Pamina. Their duets were heavenly.

Others from the Ensemble Studio included the Queen of the Night, soprano Ambur Braid, her Ladies, soprano Aviva Fortunata, mezzo soprano Emily D’Angelo, and mezzo soprano Lauren Segal; Monastatos played by tenor Michael Colvin; the two priests, tenor Charles Sy and baritone Bruno Roy; Papagna, performed by soprano Jacqueline Woodley; and the two Armed Men, tenor Owen McCausland and bass-baritone Neil Craighead. Together, they made a splendid cast of characters.

For me, the roles of Sarastro and Papageno held a special allure. Bass Goran Jurić was magnificent in his role as Sarastro. He had the deep thunderous, and authoritative voice to give life to the leader of the Temple of Wisdom. Joshua Hopkins was hilarious as Papageno. His comedic antics gave the opera many of its best moments. His famous duet with Papagena was a charming highlight.

(l-r) Elena Tsallagova as Pamina, Goran Jurić as Sarastro and Andrew Haji as Tamino in the Canadian Opera Company's production of The Magic Flute, 2017, photo: Michael Cooper

This was a magnificent and grandiose production with close to sixty performers on stage including fanciful animals, three spirits played by members of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company, and a well rehearsed and capable chorus. It is hard to imagine a more entertaining Magic Flute.

This production will run until February 24th in tandem with Wagner’s  Götterdämerung. If you are going to attend a future performance, it is worthwhile to arrive an hour early for the pre-opera chat in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Last night, Adult Programs Manager Gianmarco Segato talked about the various levels of interpretation of the opera and gave snippets of arias from historical performances. 

It may seem strange to be reviewing an opera on its fourth night of a run. Often, opera productions don’t get many more than four performances. Not so with the Canadian Opera Company ‘s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte). There are still eight more opportunities to see this truly remarkable production of Mozart’s arguably finest and certainly one his most beloved works. By the end of the current run this month, about twenty-five thousand people will have seen it at Toronto’s Four Season’s Centre.  Last night, the audience stood for a moment of silence before the opera began in memory of the lives lost in Quebec City this week, led by Quebec resident and conductor, Bernard Labadie.


The opera was brilliantly and innovatively staged as a play within a play by Director Diane Paulus for a new production in 2011. This novel conceptual framework for the opera was designed to help the audience suspend reality and for two and a half hours delve into a make-believe world. After all, it included a three-headed dragon-like serpent, a bird-man, magic bells, a queen of the night, three spirits and of course, a magic flute. The concept worked brilliantly. This year’s revival has lost none of the freshness and vitality of Paulus’ production. The Revival Director Ashlie Corcoran brought out all of the comedic and dramatic impact of its original run six years ago.

Mozart’s themes of truth, courage and wisdom leading to happiness were clearly amplified albeit with comedic and fanciful digressions. As relevant as they were in Mozart’s day, they are still poignantly so today. The opera is a tonic for a time when one can so easily be depressed by world events.

The magic began with the opening chords of the overture. The orchestra played with precision, style and an extraordinary balance. I was completely carried away by the joyfulness in the opening themes. Conductor Bernard Labadie had the orchestra playing extraordinarily well. There were many moments in which I wanted to forget the story and just listen to the wonderful music.

Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE: a wonderful tonic for stressful times!

Jacqueline Woodley as Papagena and Joshua Hopkins as Papageno in the Canadian Opera Company's production of The Magic Flute, 2017, photo: Michael Cooper

(l-r) Lauren Segal as the Third Lady, Emily D’Angelo as the Second Lady, Aviva Fortunata as the First Lady and Andrew Haji as Tamino in the Canadian Opera Company's production of The Magic Flute, 2017, photo: Michael Cooper

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