A few weeks after seeing Don Giovani (my first opera experience) I was fortunate enough to see Die Zauberflöte – The Magic Flute. This opera was also written by Mozart, and it’s interesting to hear the differences in the tone of the music. While Don Giovani felt mostly tumultuous, The Magic Flute felt light with hints of shadow. As a person not familiar with operatic music, neither having studied it nor spent much time listening to it, I know that there are tons of things I might have missed or that went over my head, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt, I’m speaking through a limited view.
Like Don Giovanni, the costumes were very modern, but in this case, it felt out of place. I expected fantastical but was given pedestrian. Perhaps it’s the way I imagine fantasy when I read it, or the way it’s depicted on screen, but I wanted flashier costumes. I read somewhere1 that the Met Opera is struggling to bring in younger crowds and had to dip into its endowment to cover its operations cost this year, I don’t have a solution for that, but I don’t think modernizing the costumes is that solution. However, that was the end of my disappointment. The rest of it was magnificent.
The pit was raised to include the musicians in the show – for the bells and flute – there was a foley artist2 providing sound effects and a visual artist who projected his chalk art on the screen in real-time. I read in a review that there was too much going on, but I think there was just enough going on, especially against the stark stage and costuming. The visual artist made it feel a little bit like a silent movie while the foley artist made it feel a little like an early 1900s cartoon; so maybe I can see what that reviewer was hinting at, but I was strangely ok with this mix.
The singers and orchestra were amazing- I adored Stephen Milling’s voice as Sarastro. Overall the experience was enthralling, and again I’m so in awe of the fact that no one is miked! The songs were in German, and I knew the synopsis so the story was easy to follow along3. Of course, The Queen of the Night’s Aria (Der Hölle Rache) was the most recognizable piece of the entire show4 but my favourite was Ach, ich fühl5!
It was a fantastically fun night that I was on a music and good company high for a few days afterwards.
1. Or maybe I saw it on TikTok?
2. Did I go home and casually look up foley artists after this? Perhaps! It’s quite fascinating.
3. Note that there are subtitles – every chair has a screen that shows subtitles – but mine was broken, so for the first 20 minutes I basically listened to the show instead of reading.
4. I made a joke that it’s funny that this is the only song people will remember when they leave, and on the subway platform, waiting for the train someone was singing that part.
5. Of course I have to like the most dramatic love song.
If you don’t feel love’s yearning, I shall find peace in death!Die Zauberflöte (K620), Ach, ich fühl