Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Suggested Reworking of the Magic Flute so not to Offend Feminist Ears (Part I)

This afternoon I attended a production of Mozart’s opera, the Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote), put on by the Ohio State University’s school of music. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I suspect that opera purists would snipe at it. The opera was performed using very modern English, using such words as “crap” and “girlfriend.” The production also took certain liberties such as including lines about hamburgers and a quip from one of the male characters about not being interested in another man.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Magic Flute, it is about Tamino’s quest to achieve enlightenment and win the hand of his love, Pamina. As the story begins, Tamino is rescued from a giant serpent by the ladies of the Queen of the Night and taken to their realm. As repayment for her aid, the Queen charges Tamino with a quest to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the hands of Sarastro, the priest of the Temple of Light. Tamino, in true romantic fashion, has fallen madly in love with Pamina merely from viewing her portrait and eagerly jumps at the chance to do this heroic deed. To aid him in this quest, Tamino receives a magic flute that can change people’s hearts and make them do his bidding. Accompanying Tamino is a bird catcher named Papageno. Pagageno’s my favorite character of the story and provides most of the comic relief. The running joke with him is that, in addition to the usual birds he tries to catch, he is also set on catching other sorts of birds, mainly women. In the end he does find himself a mate, her name is Papagena. I have every intention of learning his pieces so I can give them a proper butchering by attempting to sing them.

Tamino and Papageno go to rescue Pamina, but they discover that, contrary to what they believed, Sarastro is not the evil villain they thought him to be. On the contrary the people of the Temple of Light are really the good guys. Everyone in this realm believes in light and reason. (That is everyone except Sarastro’s traitorous Moorish servant, Monostatos.) The Queen of the Night and her ladies are the evil ones and they are trying to keep the world in darkness and superstition. While Sarastro had taken Pamina, he only did it to rescue her from her mother’s influence. Tamino and Pagageno join the Temple of Light and undergo a series of trials to prove their worth and to be allowed to enter the sacred Temple where they will be given true enlightenment.

The Queen of the Night, seeing her original plans fall to ruin, appears to Pamina tries to convince her to murder Sarastro. This leads to one of the most famous arias in opera, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart). This is a rather infamous piece amongst singers as it requires the soprano to hit an F6 key, the highest in music. There are few people in the world, capable of singing this piece properly. Enlightenment and true love wins in the end and the force of light defeats the Queen of Night and her followers. Tamino and Pamina are wed and live happily ever after.

Like much of Mozart’s work, the Magic Flute has strung Enlightenment themes running through it. The Queen of the Night represents traditional faith, with her power built on lies and superstition. Sarastro represents the Enlightenment, particularly the Freemasons. He cuts through the obscuration of the Queen of the Night and brings forth the light of reason.

(To be continued ...)

1 comment:

Shadow Dragon said...

I would have loved to have seen this modernized version of the Magic Flute. I was wondering if the soprano in this production hit that elusive F6. My voice ranges somewhere between a contralto and mezzo-soprano. I have little hope of ever reaching that note. I am always impressed by those who can.

I look foward to hearing more.