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‘Mozart’s Magic Flute’ kicks off Atlanta Ballet’s 80th season

Nadia Mara and Christian Clark in "The Magic Flute"

Nadia Mara and Christian Clark in "The Magic Flute"

Dance review

“Mozart’s Magic Flute by” the Atlanta Ballet
8 p.m. Oct. 23-24. $20-$120. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway. 404-892-3303, www.atlantaballet.com.

By Cynthia Perry

Dance involves risk-taking — pushing limits, extending the body, traveling through space. On Thursday evening, the Atlanta Ballet’s production of Mark Godden’s “The Magic Flute” charged across the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre stage as Godden’s exhilarating, expansive movement style blended with the brilliance of Mozart’s music.
Guest artist Jeff Holland Cook conducted the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra along with a company of noted vocal soloists and the Georgia movement style and its music in the pushing of limits — vocally, from the pit, and physically, onstage.
But it’s important not to overreach. Godden’s second full-length ballet, “The Magic Flute” premiered with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 2003. Based on Mozart’s 1791 “Die Zauberflote,” and drawing from Ingmar Bergman’s honest, intimate film of the opera, the ballet tells a complicated story and relies on extensive program notes. And in an attempt to link the 18th-century opera with contemporary life, Godden employs a design scheme sometimes at odds with his own storytelling purpose.
Costumes — a conglomeration of 1970s-style tacky outfits, brightly hued 18th-century-style jackets and slinky cocktail dresses — are vividly imagined, and lend humor to the ballet. But the only explanation for the vast, black void that made Act I visually challenging was perhaps the concept of a dark-to-light progression, from that early blackness, to a middle section backed by a gray wall of glass bricks, to a jovial final snow scene. But the black void seemed to flatten the movement.
Godden’s vocabulary — influenced by Jiri Kylian’s sweeping feeling for wide open spaces — rushed and swept across the open, bare stage. With pure expansiveness and broad strokes, Godden uses all the space.
At times visual elements — such as a trio of babies dropping in for a Kodak moment — received chuckles but served more as gimmicks.
Still, Christine Winkler’s spell-binding portrayal of the Queen of the Night overshadows nitpicking. She advances on young Tamino with predatory swoops, and later seduces Monostatos with high-speed swinging, circling promenades. For Winkler, this new-found strength and powerful purpose gave deeper dimension to her artistry.
John Welker’s role as Papageno seemed tailored to his expert comic timing.
Nadia Mara’s engaging, tactile quality shows promise.
As Tamino, Christian Clark can move his long limbs to their full extent — but his facial expressions could have a clearer sense of purpose.
At times “The Magic Flute” seems to be entrapped by its own TV-world design scheme that detracted from its strengths. Perhaps one could make the ballet stronger by eliminating distractions and clarifying purpose — lose the babies, keep the witch.

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