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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Metropolitan Opera Preview: The Magic Flute

The Met brings back its sturdy Flute for another toot. 
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Bald soprano: Kathryn Lewek tears up as the Queen of the Night
in The Magic Flute. Image © 2018 The Metropolitan Opera. 
Q: When does something become a "holiday tradition?"
A: When it's insistently and repetitively done every damn year.

In an unusual schedule repetition, the Met brings back its "family-friendly" (that's shortened, abridged and translated into English) holiday presentation of Mozart's The Magic Flute in its always impressive presentation by Julie Taymor. (It was slotted in last year to cover the cancellation of a planned La Forza del Destino.) Anyway, it's back.

What is The Magic Flute?
This is Mozart's last opera, written not for the court theater but for the popular theater in Vienna managed by his friend Emanuel Schickenader. It mixes different musical styles together but from the whizzing overture to the majestic final chorus, it remains one of Mozart's most enduring and popular works. This year, the Met performs its truncated 100-minute intermission-less version. It's oriented toward young listeners.

What's The Magic Flute about?
Tamino, a young prince, goes on a series of quests, first to rescue the maid Pamina from the clutches of the wizard Sarastro. When he learns that Sarastro and his order are on the side of light and virtue, the prince and his sidekick Papageno go on a quest. Tamino wants to join the order of the priests, with Pamina at his side. Papageno wants a good meal, a bottle of wine, and a lovely mate to raise a flock with.

Why should I go see The Magic Flute?
This is a perfect introduction to the opera for young people, compressed into a lean evening. If you have kids interested in the arts, there is nothing more visually stimulating or musically heart-warming than Mozart's final score. Flute combines traditional show-stopping arias with less conventional comic numbers delivered by the bird-catcher Papageno. These have become some of Mozart's most popular tunes.

Who's in it?
Kathryn Lewek sings her third Queen of the Night. Erin Morley is a welcome soprano presence as Pamina and utility infield tenor Ben Bliss is Tamino. Nathan Gunn returns as Papageno and Harry Bicket conducts.

How's the production?
This is Julie Taymor's lone production for the Metropolitan Opera, and one of the maverick Broadway director's most inspired creations. The birds, bears and beasts spring to vivid life as shadow puppets, lending color and distinct visual style to Tamino's quest for personal and spiritual enlightenment. This is a shorter English-language version of The Magic Flute. As this is a singspiel, the music will stop for spoken dialogue between numbers.

When does The Magic Flute open?
The opera returns to the Met repertory on November 25. Please note that matinee performances are offered throughout the holiday season.

Where do I get tickets?
Tickets  are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

Which recordings do you recommend?

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