Die Zauberflöte

Last night I went to see the opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) by Mozart at Krannert. It was by the U of I school of opera (most of the performers seemed to be masters’ students), with a pit of what I assume were also U of I music students. I thought they all did an excellent job – just like one would expect from our world-class performing arts theater.

The setting was interesting, sort of a modern dress-rehersal style complete with director(?) running around with a clipboard, stopwatch, tape, and headset; a props woman wheeling a clothes rack around; and most of the cast in street clothes at the beginning. It worked surprisingly well, since it made the little mistakes of the cast as they got the show rolling fit into the setting. One of the performers had a little trouble with his music when he first came on stage and was clearly nervous, but it worked out excellently with the rough draft feeling of the stage.

I was pleased at how much of the German I understood despite the operatic style, though of course the subtitles were a big help, and also the fact that they often repeat a line two or three times. It was really interesting to hear the different singers’ German pronunciations since each seemed to have a slightly different set of strengths and weaknesses. I also thought it was fascinating that they managed to completely dodge the fact that Monostatos is a very racistly-presented moor simply by having him played by a white man and translating a very few lines of his songs differently in the subtitles, which probably wouldn’t be so easily dodged in something like Othello. I thought it was a good choice, since really it’s only important that his character is a lecherous underling, and perpetuating the stereotype of hypersexual Africans can only be offensive. The sexist stuff on the other hand was left in, as it’s kind of the core of the whole opera, the conflict between male and female, logic and illogic, but it’s not that bad compared to some things.

I really like the bird-catcher Papageno’s songs the best, I think – “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja,” “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” and “Pa–, pa–, pa–” are all three awesome in my book. Since he’s the main comic, it’s no surprise that his songs are very accessible in music and humor level. It’s hard not to laugh when he says “A net for girls is what I would like, / I’d catch them by the dozen for me!” Sarastro and the Night Queen also did a great job I thought. I enjoyed Sarastro’s bass voice and the Night Queen’s aria, which really shows off the typical opera singing that you think of.

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