The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte)
By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Chicago Lyric Opera House
December 10 – January 27
I am a fan of various music genres. My playlist ranges from pop, electric, house, R & B, hip-hop, jazz, Latin, and classical (to name a few!) For classical music, my favorite composer is Mozart. I was first introduced to classical music by my Aunt, who used to listen to it on the radio. Next, came the movie Amadeus, which inspired me to learn more about the composer (to weed out the real vs Hollywood story). Then, in high school, we learned about the classical composers, as well as playing some of their songs on the piano. The Magic Flute became one of his operas that I wanted to see.
I had the opportunity to see it here, in Chicago. I was pretty excited about it because, the last time that I was at the Lyric Opera House was in the late 1990s for Phantom of the Opera. Before the performance, I refreshed myself on the story and the music of The Magic Flute.
In Mozart’s time, if you went to the opera, you were in the upper crust of society. Also, being in the top rung of the social ladder, you understood Latin, which was the language that most operas at the time used. Mozart composed his operas in German, so that the common person can go enjoy the Opera (and understand it too!)
In a nutshell, The Magic Flute is about Prince Tamino on his quest to rescue the daughter of the Queen of the Night, who is being held captive by the high priest Sarastro.
For us, the play was subtitled in English. However, I think it would have been interesting to know how close the interpretations were.
The production was described to me as “family friendly.” Granted, from the various synopses and YouTube video clips (from other performances of other companies), certain scenes may have looked dark, but who knows. I haven’t seen this before, so maybe there were parts that could be scary for kids in the original production.
The company presented this as if we were going to a neighbor’s house, and watching the play unfold in the back yard. There was a 2-level house that was used throughout the production. People can go in and out, and you can see the details of the room they were in.
There were some children in the production as well. At first, I’m thinking, “Oh how cute!” Then, they started singing! These kids were maybe not older than 10 years old? What did I do at ten? – Play outside with my friends or play video games. Totally amazing.
In composing this opera, Mozart tailored his music around the vocal ranges of two of the original singers. For two of the arias sung by the Queen of the Night – “O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn” and “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” – they both require a high F6, which is rare in opera. Sarastro, in a few parts, included a low F2. Both had been considered challenges for future performers who have recreated the roles.
Kathryn Lewek, who performed as Queen of the Night, did a spectacular job. Whether she made the technical high F6 notes, I am not sure (not trained in that aspect), but from what I heard, she was there (or pretty darn close). She definitely did a better job than I would’ve done, if I attempted that song.
Here is Kathryn Lewek’s perspective, as well as a sample of her talent:
Sarastro was performed by Christof Fischesser. His voice was beautiful baritone/bass. He was able to reach the low notes that was intended for his part pretty well. In the scene that has Sarastro’s entourage come out of the Temple of Wisdom (aka the house), Sarastro’s lions were played by two golden retrievers wearing lions manes.
Meet the furry stars here:
This performance was very whimsical and entertaining. The audience was engaged in the story and song. This was definitely a wonderful experience, even for those who have never been to an opera before.
On the Lyric Opera House website, there is more information on the performance, the trailer, and for a closer look at the house used onstage.
Hopefully, this will inspire you to give opera a try, especially if it’s The Magic Flute!
Lyric Opera House