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Mozart's 'The Magic Flute' and Weill's 'Street Scene'

Operas to be performed at Cahn Auditorium and staged by director Jay Lesenger

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February 4, 2011 | by Judy Moore
Magic Flute
The production of "The Magic Flute" features Mozart's music and Andrew Porter's English translation of a German libretto to create a melodic evening of romance and laughter. Photo by Bruce Powell

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Mozart and Kurt Weill may have composed their works more than 150 years apart, but their operas continue to entice audiences.

This month Northwestern University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music will present Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 27.

In spring, the Bienen School’s voice and opera program will present Weill’s “Street Scene” with lyrics by Langston Hughes and book by Elmer Rice at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 21; and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 22.

Both operas will be staged by Northwestern’s Director of Opera Jay Lesenger and performed by Bienen School students at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., on Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

“The Magic Flute,” Mozart’s comic two-act opera, tells a fairytale story that has enchanted audiences of all ages for more than 200 years. Its mix of symbolism, comedy and music features a handsome prince and an abducted princess, who are caught between the warring forces of the Queen of the Night and the Priests of the Sun. The powers of the magic flute lead the prince on a quest to free his kidnapped love. The flute guides the young lovers to truth and light. Their comic companion, a bird catcher, uses his magic bells to find a pretty wife and a good dinner.

The winter 2011 production of “The Magic Flute” features Mozart’s music and Andrew Porter’s English translation of Emanuel Schikaneder’s original German libretto to create a melodic evening of romance and laughter. 

Lesenger has staged more than 200 opera and musical theater productions in the United States and Europe throughout 35 years of directing. As general and artistic director of Chautauqua Opera, he has directed more than 50 productions. His new staging of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena” opened Beverly Sills’ first season as general director of the New York City Opera. A frequent adjudicator for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, he is nationally recognized as a teacher of acting for singers.

Dean Williamson will conduct the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra in the Mozart production. A well-known conductor, Williamson has worked with Opera Colorado, the Seattle Opera, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, and the New England Conservatory, among others. He is the artistic director of Opera Cleveland, and was Seattle Opera’s principal coach and pianist for 12 years. Assistant conductor YuChi Chou, a graduate student in the Bienen School of Music, will conduct the Sunday, Feb. 27 Mozart performance.

Kurt Weill collaborated with Langston Hughes, the great Harlem poet, and Elmer Rice, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, to create the Broadway opera “Street Scene”. The opera is set against the stark background of New York City tenement life during the Great Depression. The sidewalk outside a Manhattan apartment building becomes the stage for comedy and drama. A large cast of singers, dancers, actors and children will bring 1930s New York to life.

Lesenger will stage “Street Scene” and Robert G. Hasty will conduct the Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra. “Street Scene” is presented through special arrangements with Rogers & Hammerstein Theatricals in New York.

Tickets for Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” are $22 for the general public; $18 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for students with valid IDs.

Tickets for Weill’s “Street Scene” are $18 for the general public; $15 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $8 for students with valid IDs.

For more information, call the Pick-Staiger Concert Office at (847) 491-5441 or visit www.pickstaiger.org. To order tickets by phone, call the Pick-Staiger Ticket Office at (847) 467-4000.