For Ben Bliss, playing Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute is like coming home. Not only is he back at LA Opera (he was part of the Young Artist program from 2011-2013), but Tamino was also the first opera role Bliss ever sang.
As an undergrad at Chapman University studying film, Bliss also sang in the choir. When his voice coach threatened to lower his grade if he didn’t try out for The Magic Flute, Bliss auditioned and won the role of Tamino. It was a defining moment, because even after a few years’ stint working for Dr. Phil post-college, Bliss couldn’t quite shake the opera bug and has been singing ever since.
A celebration of true love conquering all, The Magic Flute transports us into an enchanted world where good faces the forces of darkness. It follows the story of Prince Tamino, who is tasked by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the supposedly evil Sarastro.
Tamino is a fun character to tackle. “The music is divine and there are so many different directions you can go with the character,” says Bliss. His favorite Tamino moment occurs in Act I, when Tamino finds himself at the gates of Sarastro’s kingdom. He sings a dialogue with an animated Speaker, who guards the gates. It’s an interesting scene, because it’s the first time in the opera that Tamino thinks the Queen of the Night might be lying to him about Pamina’s situation. Is Sarastro really the evil one? Bliss also enjoys the scene, because it’s unlike many other tenor moments in Mozart operas. It’s a conversation as opposed to a moment when everything stops, so the tenor can sing gloriously about how much he loves the soprano.
Bliss is also fascinated by the cinematic production and how the fantasy world is created through 1930s styled, cartoon-like animation – though he admits it does prove challenging. Once the opera starts, the animated video begins to project against a giant wall that serves as the opera set. “The video is not a reactive scene partner,” says Bliss. Movement has to be extremely precise, which takes a lot of practice and repetition on the singers part (rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal), but the effect is more than worth the challenge. (Watch Behind-the-Scenes with Ben Bliss below to get a sneak peek backstage at some of the “smoke and mirrors” that makes the magic happen.)
After The Magic Flute, Bliss has a busy schedule, including making his Metropolitan Opera debut as Belmonte in Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio and a solo recital presented by Carnegie Hall.
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