Andrew Staples, Ann Toomey, Annie Rosen, Lauren Decker, and Adam Plachetka in The Magic Flute. Photo: Courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Mozart’s Magic Flute is a fairy tale full of surprises from beginning to end. The story of Prince Tamino (British baritone Andrew Staples), his partner Papageno, and Princess Pamina (German soprano Christiane Karg), takes place on the porch of a house as if it were a neighborhood theater production from the fifties. The scenery is a rotating house and with each turn, the characters go in and go out through doors and windows providing the dynamic stage that a XXIst century audience requires.
The story tells the difficulties encountered by Tamino, along with Papageno — the bird-catcher— in their search for Princess Pamina, who has been kidnapped by Sarastro to protect her from her mother, the Queen of the Night. Sarastro is the leader that will show the young prince the road to ‘illumination’, emphasizing the values of humanity, brotherhood and mercy.
At the beginning of the story, Tamino is trying to escape from a whimsical dragon made of cardboard boxes carried by a bunch of children. The Queen of the Night’s three, high-heeled ladies-in-waiting (played by Ann Toomey, Annie Rosen and Lauren Decker), kill the dragon and afterwards, argue about who will stay with the handsome prince. They decide to wake him up and show him Pamina’s portrait. As is common in all fairy tales, the prince falls in love with the princess’ image instantly. The ladies tell him that the queen has promised her daughter’s hand if he rescues her. The name of the Singspiel (a genre of opera that includes dialogue and songs) derives from the flute and the bells that the latter offer the prince and Papageno to protect them during their adventure.
The child-genies, sometimes dressed as boy-scouts or policemen, are the ones who guide Tamino and Papageno in their search, advising the prince to be patient, wise and constant, in order to achieve his goal.
Pamina —captive— must withstand the harassment of Monostrato, Sarastro’s minion, while Tamino has to look for the princess dragging Papageno, who only cares about finding a girl, giving the drama a comic touch, as odd-couple stories go. The charming Papageno, played by baritone Adam Plachetka, wins over the audience with his presence and powerful voice. Papageno sings two of Mozart’s most recognizable songs. I was touched when I heard the first notes of Papageno’s magic bells. I considered Mozart’s genius, who after 225 years, continues to make us shiver with his music.
The music that he wrote in 1971, a few months before his untimely death, remains current. The joy of listening for the first or one-hundredth time the Queen of the Night’s aria (one of the hardest pieces a soprano can sing) in the voice of the American Katherine Lewek, as well as Papageno and Papagena’s duet when they finally meet, is beyond description, with no need of having a trained ear. The ‘Pa...pa...pa’ is a universal jewel.
The work is peppered with elements appropriate for a family audience. The Magic Flute is deliciously modern despite being more than two centuries old! Don’t miss it!
Carolina Herrera. Born in Monterrey, Nuevo León and was raised in México City. She graduated from Universidad Regiomontana (1989) with a Juris Doctor. She was appointed to the Mexican Foreign Service at the Consulate General of Chicago (1991-1997) and Houston (1997-2000) as representative of IMSS (the largest public health-care institution in Mexico). Since 2001, she has worked as a translator, interpreter and interpreter trainer. She is member of El BeiSMan Editorial Board. She lives in Aurora, Illinois with her children and Chester, her dog. #Mujer que piensa, her first novel, was published this year. Follow her on Twitter @blondieflowers