Monday, July 28, 2014

Los Angeles and "The Magic Flute"

I was listening to the Los Angeles Opera's "The Magic Flute" just now on WNED. The staging seemed kind of boneheaded, from what I could make out. Just for one thing, they had the Queen of the Night as a spider. The Queen of the Night isn't supposed to be a spider.

The magic touches are real fun as you can see in this video.

You can get creative with "The Magic Flute." I am not being a grinch and saying you can't. You can do a million things with it. Artists including Maurice Sendak, whose work appears up above, have had a great time with it. If this production could have let go of that silly '20s look they were trying to get, it would have been magic.

But you have to keep the basics. It is a fairy tale opera and when you start making Tamino not look like a prince and Papageno not look like a bird catcher, you are losing something. And about the Queen of the Night, she is supposed to be beautiful and cool and fun to look at and eventually you figure out who and what she is. Her appearances are supposed to be show stoppers, and they usually are.

Another thing about the Los Angeles Opera production, I give the thumbs down to the snips they gave you here and there of Mozart's piano fantasies. You cut and paste this music like that, it shows your superficial "shuffle" relationship with it.


That opera's ending always gets me!

Maybe it's the triumph of good over evil. In the Catholic Church we are taught that good wins out in the end, that God will triumph over the forces of darkness, that the battle is already won. "The Magic Flute" is set in ancient Egypt so they are singing about Isis and Osiris. Anyway, good over evil, the sun coming out, everyone happy, the battle is won.

So it was with the Los Angeles Opera. At the end you just hear that chorus and you forgive everything. Maybe that was the point, who knows.

In this Metropolitan Opera clip the chorus in question starts at 3:39. That is Kathleen Battle as Pamina and she does a kind of neat feisty skip when she joins Tamino for their walk up to where Sarastro is waiting. Sarastro is Kurt Moll -- kind of handsome, I never knew what he looked like. This is several years ago and they don't have the L.A. Opera's special effects but it is simple and good. And the Queen of the Night is the Queen of the Night.

One of these days we will compare closing choruses of "The Magic Flute" in how it looks in various productions. Meanwhile, because this is a tough Monday and we need the oomph, here is an audio clip that gives you some translations.  This just has the music but I like what the poster wrote: "Turn up the volume more and more while listening."

Do it!


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