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07 November 2005

The Magic Flute

By Wolfgang Mozart

Libretto: Emanuel Schikaneder

German title: Die Zauberflöte

Performers: Luba Orgonasova (Pamina), Sumi Jo (Queen of the Night), Gösta Winbergh (Tamino), Hakan Hegegard (Papageno); Armin Jordan conducting the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Paris, 1989

Want to know the plot? Click here.

Yeah, ok... this was certainly the most bizarre opera I've listened to, and it certainly wasn't my favorite. The freemason references cloud any semblance of plot, and all of the key performances are exercises in vocal gymnastics, not any sort of emotional, expressive meaning. The only exception to this would be Pamina's brief aria after Tamino snubs her (he could not speak to any woman while undergoing his initiation rites). Then, when they are finally able to speak again, the happy couple walks through a ring of fire (yes, I kept thinking of the fishtank initiation scene in Finding Nemo)... and that's it. Papageno, meanwhile, suffers no ill from having spoken to the old crone (who turns into Papagena).

And what was wrong with the Queen of the Night? What made the priests so special that she has to die at the end? I don't get it. Apparently Ingmar Bergman had a problem with this as well when he directed a Swedish-language film version called Trollflöjten in 1975. He made the head priest, Sarastro, Pamina's father, thereby giving him some authority over her future and a legitimate reason for conflict with her mother, the Queen of the Night.

Sumi Jo will be performing her signature role as the Queen of the Night when the Madison Opera enacts The Magic Flute this spring, but now I'm not certain if I even want to go see it. It is just so weird!

Opera veterans, help me out here!

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