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Student’s Corner: The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

Being part of LA Opera 90012 means finding the musician within each of us and experiencing opera. As participants in LA Opera 90012, we all learn to love opera – and that means we know about The Magic Flute. (How can we not?) This Mozart masterpiece is quintessential opera that has it all: beautiful music and a creative, fantasy plot. As audience members, we follow Tamino and Papageno on their quest to find Pamina. We’re left to wonder what Mozart was thinking when he composed such a fantastic opera.

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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About The Magic Flute

Ben Bliss as Tamino in The Magic Flute (2016); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Ben Bliss as Tamino in The Magic Flute (2016); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

The Magic Flute has started enchanting audiences with its silent film inspired magic. In case you’ve missed the Flute love these past few weeks (or want to learn more before seeing the show), we’ve collected a bunch of articles and videos for you to check out and see why The Magic Flute is a must-see this opera season.

Get To Know The Magic Flute

Rehearsing The Magic Flute

There is usually a pretty standard way of rehearsing opera. The director has a concept for the production – a vision that has been in play with designers and production staff years ahead of the first rehearsal. When singers do arrive, they spend time with the director, reaching a compromise on character choices, and perfecting their knowledge of the music. Sometimes bits of music are cut out; other times bits of music are added. This whole process starts in rehearsal rooms then moves onto stage within a matter of weeks. The rehearsal process for The Magic Flute is entirely different. Learn more.

5 Silent Films To Watch Before Seeing The Magic Flute

Barrie Kosky, Susanne Andrade, and Paul Barritt’s production of The Magic Flute is heavily inspired by the silent film era and the spirit of the roaring twenties. In Kosky’s words, “Papageno is suggestive of Buster Keaton, while Monostatos is a bit Nosferatu, and Pamina perhaps a bit reminiscent of Louise Brooks.” There are a plethora of silent films to check out before seeing The Magic Flute, as the silent film era was a rich time for the industry. Filmmakers explored the artistry of the cinematic medium, creating new stories and adapting classic – even operatic – works for a new audience (King Vidor’s excellent 1926 La Boheme film is definitely worth a movie night). Before you step into the world of The Magic Flute, here are a few silent films to watch to get you in the 1920s spirit.

Designing The Magic Flute: Roaring Twenties Fantasy Film

The Magic Flute is a roaring-twenties set vision. It has the beauty of a classic Louise Brooks film (like Pandora’s Box) , but live. Here, the production team – Suzanne Andrade, Barrie Kosky, and Paul Barritt – talk about the concept behind their vision for Mozart’s fantasy opera.

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Rehearsing The Magic Flute

Ben Bliss (Tamino) rehearsing The Magic Flute (2016)

Ben Bliss (Tamino) rehearsing The Magic Flute (2016)

There is usually a pretty standard way of rehearsing opera. The director has a concept for the production – a vision that has been in play with designers and production staff years ahead of the first rehearsal. When singers do arrive, they spend time with the director, reaching a compromise on character choices, and perfecting their knowledge of the music. Sometimes bits of music are cut out; other times bits of music are added. This whole process starts in rehearsal rooms then moves onto stage within a matter of weeks.

The rehearsal process for The Magic Flute is entirely different.

Why?

Projection Wall - The Magic Flute (2016)

Projection Wall – The Magic Flute (2016)

Our production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is inspired by the silent film (and early “talkie”) era and is comprised entirely of projected film. Singers stand on stage or on platforms that are 9ft high off the ground, 18” in diameter, and attached to a giant wall. Animated video (in the style of Max Fleischer cartoons or the classic Disney “Skeleton Dance”) is projected onto the wall behind the singers. The singers cannot see what’s behind them, despite the fact that they interact with the animation projected (at one point an animated bird lands on Pamina’s hand).

In a regular opera, there’s some forgiveness, the orchestra, the staging, pretty much everything can adjust in real time. For this opera – there’s none of that.

The required precision means that all character decisions for the singer have already been made by the director (and there are no bits of music being added or taken out). As the film designs and animations are already set, there’s no room for compromise.

Brenton Ryan (Monostatos) pulling an animated dog across the stage during The Magic Flute (2016) rehearsal

Brenton Ryan (Monostatos) pulling an animated dog across the stage during The Magic Flute (2016) rehearsal

Singers also have an added job in rehearsal. They must learn highly choreographed movement that cannot be altered during a performance. If, for example, Monostatos is going to be pulling a dog’s leash at this point in the projection and at this point in the music, his hand has to be in that exact spot for it to look like he’s interacting with the animation. To hit their marks, singers practice with the set and projections as soon as possible, as opposed to only when they arrive on stage for tech rehearsals. They also must rehearse in the dark for the projections to be seen.

It’s not only the singers that are learning the show earlier in the process. The staging staff and crew are learning and planning for highly choreographed work. This show has one stage manager and three assistant stage managers (“ASMs”). The stage manager calls the majority of the 666 cues in the show from a secluded area front of house. That’s 2-3 times as many as there are in most other shows. And, unlike other shows, 25% of the cues are visual instead of the usual 5%. The stage manager must be able to see the projections and know the show well enough to call a cue on time or ahead of time to prepare cast and crew.

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5 Silent Films To Watch Before Seeing The Magic Flute

<em>The Magic Flute</em> (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

Barrie Kosky, Susanne Andrade, and Paul Barritt’s production of The Magic Flute is heavily inspired by the silent film era and the spirit of the roaring twenties. In Kosky’s words, “Papageno is suggestive of Buster Keaton, while Monostatos is a bit Nosferatu, and Pamina perhaps a bit reminiscent of Louise Brooks.” There are a plethora of silent films to check out before seeing The Magic Flute, as the silent film era was a rich time for the industry. Filmmakers explored the artistry of the cinematic medium, creating new stories and adapting classic – even operatic – works for a new audience (King Vidor’s excellent 1926 La Boheme film is definitely worth a movie night). Before you step into the world of The Magic Flute, here are a few silent films to watch to get you in the 1920s spirit.

Why Worry (1923)

Director Fred Newmeyer’s adventure comedy centers on hypochondriac Harold Lloyd, who escapes his rich, business focused life to the tropics, only to find himself in the middle of a revolution.

In our Magic Flute, Papageno is basically Buster Keaton with a Harold Lloyd Twist. Similar fashions, similar comedic impulses.

The Gold Rush (1925)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDlEvaKBkhU

Charlie Chaplin is the king of silent film comedies and The Gold Rush is arguably one of his best pictures. Chaplin stars as a lone prospector, who ventures to Alaska in search of gold, and falls in love with a woman named Georgia. Chaplin’s brand of slapstick comedy permeates the fantasy world of this Magic Flute.

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNooc1KH65Q

If you’re a Monostatos fan, you’ll love that his character is heavily inspired by Nosferatu. F.W. Murnau’s classic horror film, based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, tells the story of Count Orlok and his interest in his real estate agent’s wife. The film has a subtle German Expressionist (the style of cinematography that later inspired film noir) feel that helps it retain its rightful place as one of the greatest classic horror films – a must-see for horror junkies everywhere. (LA Opera is presenting Nosferatu this Halloween at The Theatre at Ace Hotel.)

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Magic Flute By The Numbers

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute will take the stage in less than a month, sharing its roaring twenties inspired magic with Los Angeles once more. It’s exciting to see the whole production come together; it’s an elaborate one, but not in the way that you might think. Instead of giant, fantastical sets, this Magic Flute showcases a slew of projected animations, designed by filmmaker Paul Barritt, and inspired by the silent-film era.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYg1zSrQIyo

There are 677 digital animation cues in the whole opera (yes, opera!). But that’s not all! To evoke the era of Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks, and Buster Keaton, you have to have the right costumes. We have 102 original costumes made for the production, including 14 wolf masks worn by our men’s chorus. Yet, no production of Mozart’s famous comedic opera would be complete without a characteristic Monostatos (Brenton Ryan), the evil henchman, who wishes to possess Pamina (Marita Sølberg). Our Monostatos looks like he stepped out of a classic horror film (think Nosferatu with a little more mobility), helped by the 6 prosthetics required for his makeup.

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Designing The Magic Flute: Roaring Twenties Fantasy Film

The Magic Flute is a roaring-twenties set vision. It has the beauty of a classic Louise Brooks film (like Pandora’s Box) , but live. Here, the production team – Suzanne Andrade, Barrie Kosky, and Paul Barritt – talk about the concept behind their vision for Mozart’s fantasy opera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwbvFwvSbm4

How did you come up with the idea of staging The Magic Flute with 1927?
Barrie Kosky
(stage director; Intendent of the Komische Oper Berlin): The Magic Flute is the most frequently performed German-language opera, one of the top ten operas in the world. Everyone knows the story; everybody knows the music; everyone knows the characters. On top of that, it is an “ageless” opera, meaning that an eight-year-old can enjoy it as much as an octogenarian can. So you start out with some pressure when you undertake a staging of this opera. I think the challenge is to embrace the heterogeneous nature of this opera. Any attempt to interpret the piece in only one way is bound to fail. You almost have to celebrate the contradictions and inconsistencies of the plot and the characters, as well as the mix of fantasy, surrealism, magic and deeply touching human emotions.

The Magic Flute (2016); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

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Sneak Peek Behind-the-Scenes of The Magic Flute

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYg1zSrQIyo

Our 2014 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute marked the first time in opera that all physical scenery was entirely replaced by video projection. A marvel of Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky’s 1927 inspiration, this Flute took us back to the roaring twenties in cinematic style.

This upcoming February, The Magic Flute returns to wow more Los Angeles audiences.

The Magic Flute (2016); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

The Magic Flute (2016); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Take a sneak peek behind-the-scenes below to see how some of the tech for the show works.

Where can you find Pamina?

Pamina, daughter stands on a tiny revolving door platform that pivots out of the wall that serves as a projection screen. She is harnessed and buckled into the wall.  Monostatos (Sarastro’s slave) stands on the first level of the stage. All other scenic elements are video projections.

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The Magic Flute – Mozart’s Fantasy Opera: Iconic Productions Day 6

The Magic Flute 1, 1992-1993

Dale Franzen as Papagena and Rodney Gilry as Papageno in The Magic Flute (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

For the 1992/1993 season, director Sir Peter Hall believed that The Magic Flute “should have the metabolism of a child.” He wanted it to capture the childhood essence he believed existed in the music’s “deliberate naiveté.”

Mozart’s The Magic Flute is set in Egypt in the fantasy lands of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night. The young Tamino is asked by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from Sarastro, who has captured her. Tamino falls instantly in love with Pamina and vows to through every trial to be with her.

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Tech Behind-The-Scenes: The Magic Flute

This production of Magic Flute marks the first time in opera that all physical scenery has been entirely replaced with video projections. Pamina stands on a tiny revolving door platform that pivots out of the wall that serves as a … Continue reading

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The ‘Magic’ of Opera: Soprano Jasmine Mangal Talks “The Magic Dream”

Thousands of students are about to experience the magic of opera for the first time. What can they expect? To start, there is Mozart’s exquisite music, a soprano singing stratospheric high notes and even an evil villain dressed as a hot dog.

Welcome to The Magic Dream, LA Opera’s retelling of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The production is currently touring performing arts venues around Los Angeles and introduces kids to the magic of opera (and laughter).

We caught up with Jasmine Mangal, an LA Opera Teaching Artist performing in The Magic Dream, on which it’s like to be living her dream as a singer.

LA Opera Teaching Artists rehearse for The Magic Dream.

Jasmine Mangal (center) and LA Opera Teaching Artists rehearse for The Magic Dream.

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Dive into the books behind the 2019/20 season!

Can’t wait to experience all the operas in our 2019/20 season? Or do you have one favorite opera that you can’t get enough of? (It’s okay, we have our favorites too). You’ll have to wait until opening night to see the magic live onstage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t immerse yourself in the stories and histories behind your favorite operas in the meantime.

To kick off the LA Times Festival of Books, we’ve rounded up the books our 19/20 season favorites are based on. Read the play that helped spark both the French Revolution and Mozart’s imagination – The Marriage of Figaro. Or pick up a copy of Psycho: A Novel, the book that Alfred Hitchcock based his film on (and that he famously purchased all copies of to prevent avid readers from spoiling the surprise of the classic film).

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Q&A: Elizabeth DeShong on her first Mozart role in “The Clemency of Titus”

Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong sings her first Mozart role in LA Opera’s The Clemency of Titus. She gave us her thoughts on the character Sesto, a Roman patrician who is caught between his love love for another and his loyalty to Emperor Titus (you know, the ultimate “pals before gals” dilemma).

Elizabeth DeShong as Sesto in LA Opera's 2019 production of The Clemency of Titus (Photo: Cory Weaver/LA Opera)

Elizabeth DeShong as Sesto in LA Opera’s 2019 production of The Clemency of Titus (Photo: Cory Weaver/LA Opera)

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Seven MORE Black Musicians Dominating The Classical Music Game

We’re all about bookends here at LA Opera. And since we kicked off Black History Month with seven Black opera singers who are currently dominating the game, we thought we’d end in that way as well. The response to the original post was –in short—overwhelming (in a good way of, course.) And rightly so, because the amount of Black talent in opera is awe-inspiring and endless. So here’s another round of Black individuals who are dominating the game because there is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

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Seven Black Opera Singers Who Are Currently Dominating The Game

February is Black History Month and you better believe there is no shortage of Black individuals who have changed opera for the better. Last year, we rounded up six Black opera singers that changed the landscape of the art itself, so this year we’re spotlighting Black singers that are currently killing the opera game. And did we mention that they’ve all sang at LAO before? You can even catch a few of them in our upcoming production of The Clemency of Titus. Take a closer look below.

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15 Unique Ways to Sample Opera Next Season

Have you heard the news yet? LA Opera has officially announced its 2019/20 season. And boy is it a good one. From world premieres to company favorites — not to mention the 154th role debut for Plácido Domingo — the 34th season has something for everyone. Don’t believe us? Scroll down for some of the most exciting highlights from LA Opera’s 19/20 season!

Komische Oper Berlin's 2019 production of La Boheme (Photo: Iko Freese)

Komische Oper Berlin’s 2019 production of La Bohème (Photo: Iko Freese)

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Five Highlights from LA Opera’s Satyagraha!

On Oct. 20, LA Opera completes Glass’ ‘Portrait Trilogy’ with SatyagrahaSince 2013, the company has staged Einstein on the Beach, Dracula: The Music and Film and, most recently, Akhnaten. In anticipation for opening night, here are five highlights to look forward to from the production!

A scene from the Metropolitan Opera's 2011 production of Satyagraha, directed by Phelim McDermott. (Photo credit: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera)

A scene from the Metropolitan Opera’s 2011 production of Satyagraha, directed by Phelim McDermott. (Photo credit: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera)

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LA Opera 90012: Inspiring a Love of Opera

Opera is larger than life. It’s full of dramatic stories told through extraordinary music. The stage is populated by fascinating characters brought to life by beautiful voices. While the stage is transformed into a different world, the audience finds themselves transformed as well — their laughter, tears, gasps and applause are a vital part of an opera performance.

LA Opera’s 2006 production of “Hansel and Gretel.” (Photo: Robert Millard)

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Ben Bliss, Domingo-Colburn-Stein YAP Alum, Discussing His Blossoming Career

No singer’s path to stardom is a straight line some experience twists and turns in life that eventually lead them to the stage. They may even have their sights set on a completely different career, but possess a natural talent that is so potent they’ll have no choice but to pursue for a career in opera. This was exactly the case for tenor Ben Bliss.

Tenor Ben Bliss (Photo: Dario Acosta)

Tenor Ben Bliss (Photo: Dario Acosta)

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Six Questions With Soprano Summer Hassan

Soprano Summer Hassan graduated from LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist program last year, but she’s kept in touch with us since she’s departed from Los Angeles. Fresh off-the-heels of her performances as Virginia Otis in LA Opera’s recent production of Gordon Getty’s Scare Pair: Usher House/The Canterville Ghost, Hassan is heading back home to Philadelphia before embarking on one of the most exciting endeavors of her career: competing in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition.

Summer Hassan; Photo: Kristin Hoebermann

Summer Hassan; Photo: Kristin Hoebermann

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Where Will Your Favorite LA Opera Artists Be This Summer?

Ever wonder where your favorite LA Opera artists go when the season is over? Well, they travel the world! From Santa Fe to Salzburg, these singers have a busy summer ahead performing on stages around the globe. Read below to see where some of them are traveling before returning to Los Angeles!

Placido Domingo (left) and James Conlon (third from left) confer at a rehearsal for "Nabucco," joined by assistant conductor Louis Loraseb and Mr. Conlon's musical assistant, Ignazio Terrasi (photo: Ken Howard)

Placido Domingo (left) and James Conlon (third from left) confer at a rehearsal for “Nabucco,” joined by assistant conductor Louis Loraseb and Mr. Conlon’s musical assistant, Ignazio Terrasi (photo: Ken Howard)

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