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Release: April 16, 1999

UI Opera Theater returns to Hancher April 30, May 2 with Mozart's 'Magic Flute'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Guest director William Theisen will lead the University of Iowa Opera Theater in a return to the UI Hancher Auditorium for performances of Mozart's "Magic Flute" at 8 p.m. Friday, April 30 and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 2.

Having performed in Clapp Recital Hall for its most recent three productions, the Opera Theater will return to Hancher's spacious stage for the first time since the 1997 production of Puccini's "Sister Angelica" and "Gianni Schicchi."

The performances of "The Magic Flute" will feature a cast of UI students and guests. The University Symphony will be directed by William LaRue Jones. Scenic design for the production is by Margaret Wenk, and costume design is by Loyce L. Arthur, both of the UI College of Liberal Arts Production Unit. Richard Boldrey, a visiting professor in the UI School of Music, is responsible for musical preparation.

"The Magic Flute," which has spoken dialogue between the musical numbers, will be performed in English.

"The Magic Flute" was written in the last year of Mozart's life. Considered a great work of art today, it was created as the 1791 equivalent of a hit Broadway show. Mozart and his collaborator -- the popular-theater impresario Emanuel Schickaneder -- used all the familiar conventions of the popular theater of the times. In 1790s Vienna, these included a heroic prince, his comic and cowardly sidekick, magical musical instruments and surprising stage effects.

To this sure-fire formula, they added a few tricks of their own: a priestly cult, some pieces of Eastern mysticism borrowed from Masonic symbolism, and of course the one ingredient that made the show immortal -- Mozart's inimitable music.

The opera opens with Prince Tamino being pursued by a dragon. He faints, but is saved by three ladies, who serve the Queen of the Night. The Queen appears, and urges Tamino to rescue her daughter, Pamina, who has been kidnapped by the wizard Sarastro. She gives Tamino a magical flute to help him on his journey and, for his companion Papageno the bird-catcher, a set of magic bells.

They find Pamina, but Sarastro turns out to be the wise leader of a priestly order. The priests offer to initiate Tamino into their order so that he can marry Pamina and succeed Sarastro as ruler of their enlightened realm. Tamino and Papageno undergo a series of trials, which Tamino passes with flying colors, while his companion provides comic relief. Each is paired with a mate -- Tamino with Pamina and Papageno with a look-alike named Papagena -- and the opera ends happily for everyone.

The combinations of contrasting elements in "The Magic Flute" -- a serious story with comedy, low-class theater with Masonic symbolism, popular styles with some of Mozart's most glorious music -- has left many questions for modern musicologists and critics to dispute: What does it all mean? Why do the good guys and the bad guys seem to change halfway through? Is there a secret message for Mozart's and Schickaneder's brother Masons?

Whatever the answers, audiences have loved to see and hear "The Magic Flute" as much as academics have loved to discuss its meanings. The first production was a great success, running for many months. It was one of Mozart's favorite pieces: he took his rival Salieri as his guest to one performance, and on other occasions he stood in the wings and played tricks on Schickaneder, who was performing as Papageno. Later, as Mozart lay on his deathbed he would look at his watch, so he would know which scene was playing in Schickaneder's theater.

"The Magic Flute" was soon published, and performances were given throughout Europe. In modern Hollywood fashion there was even a sequel -- by Mozart's forgettable contemporary Peter Winter. The sequel has been forgotten, but "The Magic Flute" remains one of the most popular operas with productions all around the world.

Guest artists in the cast will be Lyle Lichty from the Cornell College faculty as Sarastro and Emily Truckenbrod, a recent graduate of the School of Music, as the Queen of the Night.

Student cast members of the UI production will include John Des Marais and Jennifer Valle as Tamino and Pamina, respectively; and Joss Nichols and Sarah Schmitt as Papageno and Papagena. The slave Monostatos will be sung by Oliver Stoutner. The three ladies will be Ashley Stockwell, Ann Cravero and Rachel Andrews. The three boys will be Darlene Enke, Rachel Brogan and Christine Hayes.

Other artistic contributors to the production are lighting designer Marcus Dilliard, chorus director Rebecca Seeman and assistant director Maria Delgado.

Originally from Milwaukee, Theisen is now a New York-based free-lance director. He has worked for theater and opera companies across the United States and has served as a guest director, teacher and lecturer for Carnegie Mellon University, the North Carolina School of the Arts, Marquette University, St. Ambrose University, Ohio Northern University and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, among others.

Theisen's professional credits include "Over the Moon with Gilbert and Sullivan" at Skylight Opera Theatre, "H.M.S. Pinafore" with Virginia Opera, "The Coronation of Poppea" for Opera Pacific, "The Mikado" for Kentucky Opera, "Carmen" at Cleveland Opera, "Iolanthe" for North Carolina Music Theatre and "Falsettos" at Virginia Stage Company. He worked with Theatre for Young Audiences programs writing adaptations of "West Side Story/Romeo and Juliet," "The Snow Queen" and "Winnie the Pooh."

Theisen spent three years as artistic director of the Capitol Center for the Performing Arts in upstate New York, and in the 1995-96 season served as the director of apprentice artists with Opera Pacific. His future engagements include directing "The Pearl Fishers" at Cleveland Opera, "H.M.S.

Pinafore" with Skylight Opera and Seaside Music Theatre, "The Barber of Seville" with Virginia Opera and the summer opera scenes program at Portland State University. He is also engaged to perform the role of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" at Skylight Opera Theater.

Richard Boldrey is a free-lance vocal coach, accompanist and conductor. He is on the staff at Lyric Opera of Chicago and at Northwestern University. He is currently a visiting assistant professor in the UI School of Music.

He is the author of the "Guide to Operatic Roles and Arias" and "Guide to Operatic Duets," and is music editor of "Singers' Edition," a new 27-volume opera anthology published by Pst…Inc in Dallas, Texas. He is also music director at Temple Chai in Long Grove, Ill.

Boldrey has worked privately with many world renowned singers, including Luciano Pavarotti, Robert Merrill, Grace Bumbry, Tom Krause and June Anderson. He served as assistant conductor of the Chicago Symphony Chorus from 1972 to 1977, soloed with the Chicago Symphony with conductor Carlo Maria Giulini, and was assistant conductor at the Lyric Opera of Chicago from 1981 to 1987. Other professional positions have included music director of the Colorado Lyric Theatre Festival in Boulder, music director and principal conductor of Opera Southwest in Albuquerque, and a maestro at the Bel Canto Festival in Busseto, Italy. He has been keyboardist with the Chicago Music of the Baroque since 1977.

A UI music alumnus, Jones joined the faculty of the School of Music in 1997 as director of the University Symphony and director of orchestral studies. Jones is a highly honored musician, having received the Twin Cities Mayors' Public Art Award, the American String Teachers Association Exceptional Leadership and Merit Award and the David W. Preuss Leadership Award. He has also been selected Musician of the Year by Sigma Alpha Iota, a music honorary society.

Jones is conductor of the Bloomington (Minn.) Symphony and has appeared as a guest conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Sinfonie Orchester AML-Luzern (Switzerland) and other orchestras around the world. He has conducted all-state and festival orchestras in 46 states and five Canadian provinces. He has been conductor-in-residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of Miami (Fla.).

Tickets for "The Magic Flute" are $15, $10 and $8 ($9, $7 and $5 for UI students, seniors and youth), and are available from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319)
335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

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