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OPERA REVIEW

A mostly magic 'Flute,' weird accents and all

Teatro Lirico d'Europa's production of Mozart's ''Die Zauberfloete" (''The Magic Flute") Saturday night added basic theatrical values to the foundation of a lively musical performance.

As usual, the touring Bulgarian company fielded a strong cast. The biggest hand went to Kirov Opera coloratura Larissa Yudina, a first-class Queen of the Night. She looked like a movie vixen, and her spitfire coloratura was brilliant, the high F's twinkling like stars. As her antagonist, the high priest Sarastro, Viacheslav Pochapsky offered a dignified presence and an impressive Slavic bass, although he seemed in a rush to get through his two solemn arias.

Tenor Benjamin Brecher was a little pallid as Prince Tamino, but he sang with attractive tone and style. Soprano Amy Pfrimmer sounded less authentically Mozartean as Pamina but offered welcome passion in a part too often cooed rather than sung. Baritone Stefano De Peppo was a sparkplug Papageno, singing with intelligence and offering an earthy characterization more appealing than the usual prancing around. The chamber orchestra played quite well for conductor J. Ernest Green, who kept things moving briskly.

The two-level set was simple but serviceable, although one of the backdrops was drop-dead ugly. Martin Otava, who directed Czech Opera Prague's delightful ''Die Fledermaus" earlier this season, didn't offer a comparable level of detail but delivered the traditions with intelligence. He could have used more props -- someone should have nipped over to Chinatown to pick up a dragon.

The only disappointing aspect of the production was the decision to perform the opera in German. Why ask a cast including no native German speakers -- and two Americans -- to deliver spoken dialogue in German to an English-speaking public? Some of the accents were truly weird. Because some of the surtitles were erratically timed, the audience duly laughed in synchronicity with the screen, not with the performance.

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