Eri Nakamura (Pamina) and Anna Siminska (Queen of the Night)
in The Magic Flute, Washington National Opera (photo by Scott Suchman)
Polish soprano Anna Siminska was indisposed at the second performance, when she was to have taken over the Queen of the Night from Kathryn Lewek. She went on on Thursday night and gave an accomplished if not immaculate rendition of the role's two dastardly arias, her dramatic stage presence enhanced by an accented pronunciation of the English words. The top notes were a little unreliable in both cases, although one had to admire her composure after she took a tumble to the floor in the middle of Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, after appearing to trip on the hem of her costume. With a helping hand from her Pamina, Eri Nakamura (who went on for an indisposed Maureen McKay), she stood back up without missing a beat and finished the aria.
The odd alteration schedule was in the role of Sarastro, with four early performances given to Soloman Howard and the rest to another American bass, Jordan Bisch, in his WNO debut. He was less stiff in the role, although not as solid vocally as Howard, taking some time for his voice to settle and not as resonant overall. First and second impressions of the rest of the cast remained largely the same, with the pleasing exception of the three ladies, who seemed to have improved their ensemble balance, with the lower two voices sounding a little more contained, thus stretching the first soprano into less strain. In the orchestra, the many fine solos by the flute stood out for praise, too. The video design and costumes did not become less distracting, and the English adaptation grated more on my ear. If you want to remind yourself of what the text is really like, as I did, here is the German text and a literal English translation.
Two performances of this production remain, tonight and tomorrow, in the Kennedy Center Opera House.