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Bethesda Summer Music Festival
What the Bethesda Summer Music Festival lacks in polish, it makes up for in enthusiasm. It was daring of Artistic Director Mira Yang to stage a near-complete Mozart "Magic Flute" with young professionals and students after only a two-week workshop. The staging was stripped down but the essentials were right, thanks to some very fine singing.
At Bethesda Presbyterian Church on Saturday night, the best voices belonged to the leaders of the opposing forces. Adrianna Sgarlata was a haughty, imperious Queen of the Night, combining excellent stage presence and a fine coloratura with even sound almost to the top of her range. As Sarastro, Kwang Kyu Lee had a strong, resonant bass with a dark, rumbly lower register.
Neil Carling was a rather stolid Tamino, but he emoted well in "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schoen." Kotnim Chung was at her best as Pamina in Act 2, lamenting her presumed loss of Tamino's love.
Doug Peters was a brightly active Papageno, his rather light baritone nicely complementing Carling's solid tenor. Peters's duet with Katelyn Sexton as Papagena was utterly charming.
The Three Ladies (Eunyoung Hong, Rebecca Roberts and Carrie Coultas) made a nicely catty trio, and Brendan Sliger was a buffoonishly menacing Monostatos.
The music came from a string quartet, piano (Steve Bertino) and flute (Youn Yong Yi) -- plus recorded thunder, trumpets and sound effects, all conducted by Samuel Bill. And there were no surtitles -- a challenge for the audience, which did not seem to mind at all.
-- Mark J. Estren