“Don Giovanni” may often be considered the greatest Mozart opera (and ergo, the greatest opera), but for comedy, fantasy and intrigue, “The Magic Flute” has to top the list. A product of those much romanticized last months of his short life, it is Mozart at his most witty, his most charming, and at the full height of his soon-to-be-silenced miraculous musical powers. The upcoming 250th anniversary of Mozart’s death will see a number of productions—old and new—of “The Magic Flute,” which decades ago had already become the property of pop culture thanks to Ingmar Bergman’s famous film version and of course, the work’s role in the finale of “Amadeus.” Few, if any, are likely to be as memorable as the late August Everding’s staging that was first seen here nearly two decades ago and has been revived here several times since. The production remains so thoroughly charming and so full of surprises that new things can be seen in it even after a multiple viewings. Far better to revive a solid production of the work with a clear vision of what Mozart had in mind than to offer us a new production with minimal sets and a trendy, cost-cutting concept of the work that completely misses the mark. All of the magic—yes, often literally—is intact, including the dancing animals and magical flowers, making this an ideal opera for families. And unlike some of its past revivals, the singing and conducting are strong this time around, even if faster tempos do sometimes seem in order. (Dennis Polkow)
“The Magic Flute” plays at Lyric Opera, Wacker Drive and Madison, (312)332-2244, through January 8.