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Magic Flute features humor, singing, English


Portland Opera to Go turns Mozart classic into a family favorite

Follow Prince Tamino and his silly sidekick, Papageno, on a quest for wisdom. The pair will face a dragon, rescue a princess, find true love and undergo a series of trials when Portland Opera to Go (POGO) offers a free, family-friendly performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” Saturday at the Walters Cultural Arts Center.

“Kids adore Papageno’s antics,” Alexis Hamilton said. Hamilton, the Portland Opera’s Manager of Education and Outreach, has watched The Magic Flute several times this season, but says she still laughs ever time. “I cry, too.”

POGO, an extension of the Portland Opera, travels throughout Oregon and southwest Washington performing 50-minute, English-language adaptations of classic operas. Its primary goal: bringing opera to anyone who might otherwise miss what it has to offer.

“We’re ambassadors for the region and for the art form,” Hamilton said. “I remember one guy from a small town who told me he had two problems with (Portland Opera to Go): Portland and opera. But a lot of people with preconceived ideas about the opera have never seen one, in spite of how accessible it is as an art form. Anyone who likes music and stories will probably like opera.”

One problem for American audiences has been that many classic operas come from Europe and are difficult to understand in their original languages. POGO solves that problem by performing them in English.

Preconceptions, however, are difficult to overcome, which is one reason POGO reaches out primarily to children. Hamilton said performing for children has at least two advantages. “First, kids don’t care how you tell it, they just want to hear a story. Second, they don’t mind singing as a form of storytelling. It’s easier to cross that threshold.”

And there’s another reason POGO targets children. “Since 1990, Oregon schools have been paring back art programs,” Hamilton said. “We’re trying to reignite the arts experience in schools.”

Above all else, however, is the opera experience. Hamilton described her own joy in seeing The Magic Flute: “ It’s very colorful, very charming and magical. Emotionally it’s a very real experience.”