Saturday, May 03, 2014
Mozart's "The Magic Flute" performed at Kennedy Center, shown at Nats Park free; plenty of freemasonry, and skipping out on the Tribunals
Tonight, I attended the Washington National Opera’s performance of Wolfgana Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (“Die Zauberflote”), libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, co-produced with opera companies in San Francisco, Omaha, Kansas City, and North Carolina, conducted by Philippe Agunin (link). This was part of the Washington Opera and Kennedy Center's "Opera in the Outfield" program at Nationals Park, and "it's free". (The concessions are not, and they're expensive.) There appeared to be about 20000 people at the event.
I got into the park and toward the bleacher seats (the outfield was full) just as the E-flat overture started. Agunin treated the overture as a majestic, romantic opening, with Klemperer-like tempos. There are several other famous orchestra passages, most of the slow (including the beautiful flute melody, all ready for "Modern Family"), and a number of famous, lilting arias. I played the overture a lot in the early 1970s, and I recall that during that lost 1961 semester at William and Mary, a friend and I would go to Ewell Hall and he would sing some of them as I sightread them on piano. (That was John De Long, and some of his music is discussed Jan. 8, 2013). John barely knew about the "trials" (below).
The story is metaphorical, fantastic and intricate, and well summarized online. The most interesting controversy involves the references to freemasonry and Rosicrucianism. The SF opera explains that here. It is said that Mozart compose the work -- other people’s ideas – for money.
The work is in two acts with many scenes (it would have helped if the video had identified the scenes). The libretto, presented in English, presents many political ideas, like “the right of privacy.” The format is that of “singspiel”, allowing spoken text, like in a musical.
In the second act, both the prince Tamino and the bird-catcher Papagino have to undergo various "trials" to earn happiness and wisdom, or (in Papagino’s case), a wife and family. The trials include remaining silent, even about the meta-fact of the silence – something that reminds us now of Putin’s Russia. Another is fasting, which Papagino refuses, but he is not required to provide retribution. Papagino is forced to be willing to marry a woman who looks ugly, to prove he can give up the idea of upward affiliation in a relationship (George Gilder and perhaps Rick Santorum would love this). Tamino is threatened with walking through fire and then being scalded in fluids, but it seems that music from the Magic Flute lets him skip out on making such a sacrifice of his own attractiveness. This all takes on a David Lynch character (and there are plenty of abstract costumes and rainbow colors, as if to hint at a gay interpretation). At the end, the men survive, for a happy ending. I was reminded of how I had skipped out on Tribunals at William and Mary in 1961; rumor had it that, in some dormitory basement, “they” shaved the boys’ legs and that for at least one it wouldn’t grow back. I never thought I would see this idea in opera, however metaphorically.