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Originally published May 17, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 18, 2005 at 9:36 AM

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Corrected version

Puppets, top-notch musicians bring delightful "Magic Flute" to life

Eight top-notch musicians and an extraordinary cast of 25 puppets bring to life the gorgeous music of Mozart in Northwest Puppet Center's...

Eight top-notch musicians and an extraordinary cast of 25 puppets bring to life the gorgeous music of Mozart in Northwest Puppet Center's version of "The Magic Flute." With fairies that swoosh in close formation like the Blue Angels, a comic dragon and three silly, maxim-mouthing small boys, the opera revolves around a search for wisdom and love.

Once a year, NWPC produces an opera and "Magic Flute," though a considerable challenge for a small cast, is for the most part a delightful success. John Miller's vibrant sets, with a motif of papyrus and lotus blossoms in ancient Egypt, make an exotic backdrop for the soul-stirring vocals and witty marionettes, designed by artistic director Stephen Carter and crafted by Romanian carver Iulius Suteu. Puppeteers Christine, Dmitri and Stephen Carter and Montana Hunter insert plenty of contemporary humor to the spoken script. (When a bad-looking villain exits the stage, a character quips: "Was that the governor of California?")

Hero Prince Tamino (sung sweetly by Scott Whitaker) and his lusty bird-man cohort Papageno (David Stutz) are led to endure trials by fire, water and other special effects to win their soul mates. The audience has to endure a few as well to survive the show. The poorly ventilated theater can reach saunalike temperatures in the upper seats, and the supertitles sometimes shrink to unreadable proportions.

Now playing

"The Magic Flute" Northwest Puppet Center, repeats 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday. 9123 15th Ave. N.E., Seattle, $22 adults, $18 children under 16 and seniors (206-523-2579 or www.nwpuppet.org).

Fortunately, the spoken dialogue is in English. Even so, the abridged action, which runs a little over two hours, is occasionally hard to follow. Note also that this production is more suited to teens and up.

For a show that requires so much from a small cast, Stutz provides several talents in one bass. Not only does he have what it takes to handle the low notes, he has something quite the opposite — a glorious falsetto.

Alexandra Picard, as both Pamina and Papagena, sang her roles with bell-like clarity.

The show's musical director, violist Margriet Tindemans, transcribed the opera in consultation with the other musicians — flutist Janet See; cellist Meg Brennand; and violinist Kim Zabelle, who all played admirably.

The puppets have an advantage performing demanding arias: When the Queen of the Night reaches into the stratosphere to hit those famous high notes, her neck pops up a few extra inches to help her along. Soprano Bianca Showalter, in front of the stage, sang the nuanced role with much less fuss.

Information in this article, originally published May 17, 2005, was corrected May 18, 2005. The name of puppeteer Dmitri Carter was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

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