is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Friday, April 16, 2010

UK Opera presents Mozart's The Magic Flute

Under the meticulous direction of Margo Buchanan, UK Opera Workshop and the Undergraduates of UK Opera Theatre will present The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on April 17 and 18th, at 3:00 p.m. in Memorial Hall.  

As most of my friends and family know, one of my favorite  sopranos is Annabelle Wright-Gatton.  She has been with my choir for several years now, and everyone smiles when we know she has a solo, because her voice is so lovely!  

So you can imagine how pleased I was to hear she will perform the role of the Queen of the Night.  Annabelle describes her character as "essentially one of the main bad guys in this story. There are probably a lot of different interpretations of her, but I prefer to think of her in a more human way – rarely is anyone entirely evil. It seems more understandable and realistic to me that someone could start out as a very nice person on a virtuous path, and then through unfortunate life circumstances turn towards an ever darker path. For instance, in her case circumstances such as her husband’s death, followed by loss of power and her way of life since her husband left the biggest power to his male friend Sarastro rather than to his wife, and finally the kidnapping of her daughter. I think she could be understood in the same way Darth Vader is – he was not always Darth Vader – he used to be nice Annakin Skywalker, but through a series of life events and his own fear, he turns into something dark and evil. So in the story of the Magic Flute, we see the Queen falling apart in the years after her husband’s death, and trying to get the prince Tamino’s help to rescue her daughter from her enemy Sarastro, and using any manipulation she can to achieve her goals. When things don’t go her way, she then demands that her daughter kill Sarastro for her, and when her daughter refuses, that’s pretty much the last straw of the Queen’s sanity I think. At that point she feels betrayed by everyone and all she trusts and cares about anymore is power. Needless to say, she doesn’t fare well in the end."

Wright-Gatton points out the complexity of her character is what makes her so intriguing. "She’s not the young innocent maiden who is just starting to experience life, rather she’s older, she’s a mother, she’s lived through some rough life circumstances. Unfortunately she doesn’t become wiser through her trials in life, but to me all that she’s been through makes her very interesting. In real life I obviously don’t like mean or evil people, but in the story it’s actually a fun challenge, because it’s so opposite my nature,  playing a character that is so manipulative and demanding of all the attention. However I have always been very maternal in my personality, so that aspect of the character is something that seems a good fit for me. I both love & hate the extremity of her vocal lines – all of the superfast coloratura and several high F’s are just crazy! It’s a great challenge, but it is very hard. Some of us refer to it as 'Vocal Olympics' due to the level of difficulty. My fellow Queen, Arianna Afshari (most main roles are doublecast) and I have discussed how if Mozart could have just left out a couple sixteenth notes, so there would be time for us to get a decent breath before trying to jump up to one of those high Fs, we sure would’ve preferred that!" 
It is Mozart, so all the music is bound to be wonderful, therefore when asked for her favorite part in the whole opera, Annabelle understandably found it difficult to name just one. "For my own character, I really like the power at the end of the Queen’s second 'vengeance' aria, when she’s almost screaming at the end, and standing over her daughter holding this dagger – very intense! Some folks have told me I look like lightning bolts are about to come out of my eyes or fingers then, which makes me feel like I’m hopefully doing a good job.  One of the best things about this opera for me, is that there is SO much comedy – not with my character of course, but with many others, and so much is hysterical! I guess historically there was a lot more sexism and racism in this opera, but our English translations have been carefully chosen to eliminate as much of that as possible, and there really are a ton of great comedic moments, which are further possible thanks to the great people in the cast able to pull this off so well! The Papageno (Nick Davis & Phillip Bullock) & Papagena (Tai-Kristin Smedley & Taylor Eldred) characters in particular have the most laugh out loud moments, and they are so much fun to watch! One of the evil characters, Monostatos also has one of the funniest moments in the show, because he is hypnotized by magic bells and then, as beautifully played by Ron Wilbur, he suddenly turns into a ballet dancer leaping about the stage. Offstage in rehearsals, we’ve had some funny moments turning some of the music into more of a modern, hip-hop style, such as one of Papageno’s songs where his mouth is padlocked shut, so he can only sing 'Hmm, hmm, hmm' – but the tune is so catchy, we all end up bopping and grooving to it offstage!
Annabelle admits that working with Margo Buchanan is a real treat. "I had heard lots of great things about her, but this is my first time really working with her, and she’s been wonderful! She’s been very open to all the students’ inputs, which is really great."
Wright-Gatton finished her undergrad degree in Vocal Performance  and is considering plans "for continuing on to a Master’s Degree as I continue to work in my various part-time jobs performing and teaching." Previously at UK, I was in the choruses in 2008’s Hansel & Gretel and 2009’s Lucia di Lammermoor, and one of my biggest highlights from my time at UK was traveling to Italy as part of the Women’s Choir in June 2009 and getting to sing a small solo in St. Mark’s cathedral in Venice – that is an experience I am so grateful for and will cherish always!"
I am familiar with and fond of Annabelle predominately due to her work at Central Christian Church as a choir soloist, and assisting with leading the children and teen choirs at the church.  "I’ve also taught beginning piano in UK’s Piano Preparatory program, and just recently started working as a private voice teacher at Central Music Academy. I’ve also been singing professionally with the Lexington Chamber Chorale since 2007, and I’m excited about our next season, as the group will be performing the Messiah concerts in December this year with the Lexington Philharmonic."
If you have never heard Annabelle's voice, her voice caresses the text and the music in a way that is never too much, always clear as a bell and her music stays in your mind long after the performance is over.  Apart from that, she is an engaging, sweet young lady. I hope you can make it out to hear her in Saturday's performance of The Magic Flute. 

This is an opportunity to hear one of Mozart's most popular works at an affordable price, plus you can bring your children and let them experience the wonderful word of opera!

Tickets are only $5 for children, students, UK faculty and staff; $10 for the general public! Available at the Student Center Ticketmaster or by calling 859-257-TICS or visiting

Tamino: Luther Lewis III (Sat.) and Jason Brown (Sun.)

Papageno: Phillip Bullock (Sat.) and Nicholas Davis (Sun.)

1st Lady: Heather Sewell (Sat.) and Rachel Sterrenberg (Sun.)

2nd Lady: Melissa Snow-Groves

3rd Lady: La'Shelle Allen

Pamina: Mary-Hollis Hundley (Sat.) and Ashley Jackson (Sun.) [Rebecca Farley-Cover]

1st Spirit: Markel Reed

2nd Spirit: Keymon Murrah

3rd Spirit: Martha Prewitt

Sarastro: Matt Turner

Priest/Speaker: Reginald Smith, Jr.

Papagena: Tai-Kristin Smedley (Sat.) and Taylor Eldred (Sun.)

The Queen of the Night: Anabelle Wright-Gatton (Sat.) and Arianna Afshari (Sun.)

Armed Men: Greg Harrington and Kaymon Murrah

Monastatos: Ron Wilbur

Slaves and/or Ensemble:
Jo Kohorst, Antonio Castillo, Katie Marsh, Jacob Moore, Rebecca Farley

Producer & Director: Margo Buchanan
Music Director & Conductor: Daniel Chetel
Music Director & Vocal Coach: Stephen Penn
Costumes: Susan Rahmsdorff
Set: Chase Clark
Lights: Richard Kagey
Voice Faculty Consultant: Dr. Angelique Clay
Stage Manager: Lindsay Warnick
Asst. Stage Manager: Kara Strait
Asst. Directors: Heather Curry and Patrick Joel Martin (Marketing Coordinator)

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