The Lyric's current production of The Magic Flute is truly magical--the singing, the playing, the sets, the costumes, the dancing wild animals. This often confusing mix of fairy tale, vaudeville, and Freemasonry lesson is probably Mozart's most famous work, written at the same time as the Requiem and finished just two months before he died. It's full of drama, imagination, playfulness, and astonishing beauty, shifting repeatedly from the ridiculous to the sublime in a beat or two as only his music can. Here the wandering prince Tamino is sung by tenor Michael Schade, one of today's leading Mozart interpreters; his phrasing is always good, even if his voice is at times a little on the bright side. Pamina is sung by Erin Wall, a Lyric Opera Center for American Artists alum making her debut in the role (soprano Rebecca Evans takes over on January 8); she has an expressive and luminous voice, though her attention to detail sometimes seems overly cautious. The amazing, perfectly pitched coloratura Cornelia Gotz has sung the role of the Queen of the Night more than 500 times, yet this is her first time singing it in North America; her revenge aria is a head spinner. The remarkable baritone-bass Franz-Josef Selig is Sarastro, and the excellent Lauren Curnow is Papagena. But the real star of the show is baritone Jonathan Lemalu as the comic, lovable, simpleminded bird catcher Papageno. He has a magnificent, velvety voice, and it's hard to imagine this character played better--his stuttering at the beginning of his and Papagena's famous aria is a breathtaking pleasure. Sir Andrew Davis conducts. See also Monday. Sat 12/17, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $41-$175.