Our second opera (you can read about the first one here
) was The Magic Flute
by Mozart. Yes, that Mozart. What? You didn't know he wrote operas too? He composed the operatic version of The Marriage of Figaro
(based on the play by Pierre Beaumarchais), still one of the top 10 most performed operas worldwide.
But The Magic Flute
is not The Marriage of Figaro
and not as widely performed. I'm assuming that's because it's not as good, though it was very enjoyable. [I'll have more to say about Figaro in the next opera post.] Actually, there are parts of it that are downright hilarious, although it does have issues with the ending.
Basically, The Magic Flute
is an allegory about the Freemasons (of which Mozart was one) and the Catholic church, represented in the opera as The Queen of the Night (now, if that doesn't tell you anything about how Mozart feels about the Catholic church, I don't know what will). The protagonist, Tamino, is initially aligned with The Queen of the Night but quickly switches sides once he discovers the reason and logic of Sarastro and the brotherhood he belongs to.
On the surface, it's a very cliche love story: young prince sees a picture of a beautiful princess, falls in love, and goes off to rescue her. The princess hears that a prince is coming to rescue her and immediately falls in love with the prince, sight unseen. There are places where it seems that Mozart recognizes the ludicrousness of the plot, but he uses the familiar trope to tell his allegory.
And that's all I'm going to tell you about the story. It's all online; you can look it up. I will say, though, that the ending -- which is one of those "everything inexplicably turns out okay in the end" kinds -- is what I would say is the weakness of the story. I'm sure it could be debated how it relates to the allegory of the opera, but I'm not going to have that debate in relation to the story itself, which I think suffers.
As I mentioned in my last opera post, one of the things opera can suffer from is performers who just stand and sing, and this performance had issues with that as well, though not as bad as in Lucia di Lammermoor
. Sarastro tends in this direction though, with him, it could be on purpose as he's supposed to be a very serious and solemn character. That said, the lead Paul Appleby, as Tamino, also tended to just stand and sing. I have to say that he was quiet boring as the male lead.
However, in the performance we saw, the female lead was played by Nadine Sierra (you might remember from the first opera post that she was fabulous as Lucia in that opera), and she was, again, brilliant. She's definitely someone I'm going to be keeping my eye on.
The true gem of this show, though, was Efrain Solis as Papageno, the Queen's bird catcher. No, I don't know why he's a bird catcher.
That's Papageno on the left and NOT Nadine Sierra as Pamina.
What I do know is that he was hilarious. Completely. Papageno is the comic character of the piece as The Magic Flute is a comedy, and Solis pulled it off perfectly. He is not a stand-and-sing kind of guy. I would go back to see this again just for his performance.
One other thing: this was actually performed in English, which my wife and I didn't know going in, so that was a pleasant surprise. Of course, we went to a performance that had translations happening (basically subtitles), so they actually became distracting since we didn't need them.
I liked this one better than Lucia, and I liked Lucia, so that's saying something. Next up:
The Barber of Seville