SDSU professor to perform in fairytale opera by Mozart

Tamora Rosenbaum

SDSU professor Emily Toronto is performing in one of the “world’s most beloved fairytale operas” Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 16 at 2:30 p.m. at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.

“Die Zauberfloete” (“The Magic Flute”) was written and composed by Wolfgang Mozart in the late 18th century.  The opera was so well received then that it was performed almost 100 different times within a year of its premiere.

“Die Zauberfloete” has remained a favorite among audiences of all ages for hundreds of years. Toronto attributes the opera’s lasting popularity to its fairytale setting, simple plot and beautiful music.

“This is an opera that people love,” she said. “I think sometimes people are intimidated by opera, but at the same time they love musicals. Really, opera is the original musical theater.”

“Die Zauberfloete” is a classic fairy tale. Its opening scene reveals a young prince being saved from a giant, malicious serpent. His helpers then give him a portrait of a young woman who is in danger. She is the daughter of the Queen of the Night, and he is tasked with her rescue. The opera follows him through this quest.

“Mozart was a master at writing musical theater,” Toronto said. “He knew how to tell stories through music.”

Toronto plays one of three unnamed Ladies. They come to the aid of the prince in his struggles against the serpent. Later in the opera, the audience and the prince begin to doubt the motivations of the three Ladies — whether they are really helping him or trying to throw him off his search instead.

Toronto likes the devious character she plays and loves the opera as a whole. One thing she loves about “Die Zauberfloete” is its use of different combinations of voices: solos, duets, full chorus numbers and more make up the opera. She also loves how it showcases the German language.

“German is a language that many people don’t appreciate as much, but it really is beautiful, especially when sung,” she said. “I don’t know how many opportunities there are to hear an opera sung in German.”

“Die Zauberfloete” is a specific kind of opera, a “singspiel” in German, meaning parts of it are sung while other parts are spoken as dialogue. The dialogue in the Magic Flute performance in Sioux Falls will be spoken in English and the music will be sung in German, with English superscripts. Toronto hopes the audience won’t need them.

“Hopefully if we’re doing our job as singers and actors, you’ll be able to tell just by what we’re doing on stage,” she said.

Toronto auditioned for “Die Zauberfloete” in May.  She is familiar with the opera and counts it among her favorites.

“It is truly great opera, and I’m not just saying that because I’m performing in it,” she said.

She has been practicing for her role in the opera daily. She says rehearsal times for opera are usually compact because performers have to be flown in internationally and brought together with the orchestra.

“I make sure I have everything memorized,” she said. “Because the rehearsal time is so intense and short, you have to be prepared.”

Toronto’s love for opera didn’t develop until she went to college, though she sang in a chorus from the time she was in middle school. Her very first semester in college, someone invited her to be part of the chorus in the opera “Carmen.” She fell in love with opera during that experience and has been involved with it ever since.

“There’s something about having the full orchestra playing and the great music and the characters on stage,” she said. “I think it’s so fun to have everyone interacting.”

Originally from Utah, Toronto joined SDSU in the fall of 2004 and is now associate professor of music and director of opera. She has performed nationally with numerous artistic companies including the South Dakota Symphony and Sounds of South Dakota, which is the performing orchestra for “Die Zauberfloete.”

Tickets  for “Die Zauberfloete” are available online at Alternatively, Toronto can provide tickets at a ten percent discount for students who want to go as part of a group. Contact her at [email protected] to order tickets by Friday, Sept. 14.