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HGO's The Magic Flute: Features Mozart's Beautiful Music and an Exotic Egyptian Quest

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When Nicole Heaston, the daughter of a Chicago music teacher, was a child taking piano lessons she was, well, not very good. But her instructor urged her mother to listen to her daughter as Heaston sang along with her playing.

In short order Heaston became a member of the Chicago Children's Choir, sang in high school where her teacher pushed her to transition from alto to soprano and after an undergraduate degree and a master's and a stint with HGO Studio Artists, became a professional opera singer.

When Lisette Oropesa had to withdraw from Houston Grand Opera's upcoming production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, Heaston, who has sung the role of Pamina at the Met and other opera stages including Houston and who now lives in Katy, stepped in - although she had just 20 days to learn a different English version than the one she'd performed before.

Originally written in German, The Magic Flute is set in Egypt and involves all sorts of exotica; Mozart is said to have incorporated some of the Freemason rituals in it.

Prince Tamino is rescued by three blue-haired attendants to the Queen of the Night who asked him in turn to save Pamina, her daughter, who is being held prisoner. The three ladies give him a magic flute for protection on his quest.

In this HGO version, Pamina has been made a much stronger character, though some of the misogynistic elements of the original remain. The last completed and performed opera of Mozart's before he died, The Magic Flute is known for its beautiful music. "The Queen of the Night (Kathryn Lweek) coloratura, the glorious aria of Sarastro (Morris Robinson) and my personal favorites: the quintets," Heaston says. "It's a great first opera and a great opera to see again."

Performances of The Magic Flute are scheduled for January 30 and February 1, 4, 7 and 14. at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at the Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. For information call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. Sung in English with projected English text. $18-$386.25.

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