Emotional arias and rich contraltos will be coming to UNM’s Keller Hall later this month, as the music department prepares to debut its production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

The production is comprised of more than 50 performers, several UNM departments and two directors: Leslie Umphrey and Sam Shepperson.

Umphrey said she and Shepperson have been collaborating on various opera projects for more than three years, and that two directors are often necessary with larger operas.

“There are so many details to be taken care of,” said Shepperson. “We get the scenery, costumes, we make the props, we go to orchestra rehearsal — we do everything, and that’s impossible for one person to do.”

Other departments involved include the UNM Symphony Orchestra, conducted by 24-year orchestra veteran Jorge Perez-Gomez.
Gomez said he was delighted to be asked to take part in the production of an opera that deals with so many diverse themes, characters and musical pieces.

“It’s a great pleasure for the conductor to be able to work with the music,” Gomez said. “Mozart was a genius and he wrote the music in a way that it is so connected to the action.”

The two-act opera was originally in German, but the version selected for the UNM performance is in English.

Eric Wilcox, a graduate student in voice, said he felt translating the opera to English was a great idea. “I like singing in English because it’s more accessible to the audience … the audience does not have to follow along with subtitles,” Wilcox said.

Auditions for “The Magic Flute” began during the fall semester, and selected cast members were given scripts to memorize during the five-week break between the fall and spring semesters, Umphrey said.

While rehearsing, performer Thomas Munro, a graduate student in choral conducting, prepared his character of Papageno.

“Everybody’s voices are smaller; I think everybody can understand a lot of the jokes,” Munro said. “It’s actually not so much jokey as it is zany — there’s a lot of physical humor in this opera, so I think people will have a little bit easier time following.”

Emily Wright, a graduate student and opera theater assistant, said “The Magic Flute” is a great performance piece full of love, danger and magic.

Prince Tamino is lost in a distant land. After being chased by a serpent he is given a magic flute to aid him on a quest to rescue Pamina, his beloved princess, who has been taken hostage by the queen of the night.

“Mozart wrote this opera so common people can understand opera … it’s the people’s opera,” Wright said.

The Magic Flute
Keller Hall
Feb. 20 – 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 23 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available at