Friday, December 4, 2015

The Magic Flute (an opera review post)

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


  1. So you are an opera-goer now, I take it. This one sounds interesting, and I like Mozart.

    1. Briane: I think I am. There are more reviews coming.

  2. I've never seen the Magic Flute. The last opera I saw was La Boheme. It was performed in Italian, but they had subtitle screens set up. Very distracting.

    1. M.J.: I want the subtitle screen most of the time. Maybe if I knew what all of the songs were about, I wouldn't care.

  3. I think I heard part of the opera back when I was a little kid, but I don't remember much about it. Glad you enjoyed it. You're becoming a real opera buff.

  4. I've never been to an opera. Don't know if I'd like it. I would like to see a ballet. That's not happening. Oh, well. Nevermind, as Nirvana said.


    1. Janie: I have a ballet coming up, too, and maybe another ballet, too.

  5. The opera scenes in the film Amadeus were a lot of fun. There were some bawdy times in the opera houses back then if one is to believe those scenes.

    I might have to check out The Magic Flute. I wasn't aware of all the conspiracy theory themes in that opera. Sounds like it's right up my alley.

    Arlee Bird
    Wrote By Rote

    1. Lee: Opera was probably a lot like Shakespeare when he was performing it himself, before everyone got all stuffy with it.

      You should definitely check out Flute.