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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 Generations of Opera: Fostering a New Age of Opera Lovers

With Hollywood as LA Opera’s backyard, there is always something to do. In a place so saturated with both art and entertainment, you could live in the city for a lifetime and always find a new adventure. For children and adults, Los Angeles is a wonderland of entertainment opportunities, and world-class opera is one of them. At LA Opera, parents can expose their kids to unforgettable mainstage productions, as well as programs created especially for children.

Pagliacci (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

The cast of Pagliacci (2015)

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Sir Peter Hall – An Incredible Talent

The peerless stage director Sir Peter Hall (November 22, 1930 – September 11, 2017) was the founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a former director of the National Theatre in London, and had a thriving career in the world’s greatest … Continue reading

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Attention Campers – Arias That Make the Bears Go Away

Shawnet Sweets, our resident opera junkie is at it again.

So Young Park as Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

In addition to work and all her other adventures, Shawnet is a camper. During a recent critter-interrupted camping trip, Shawnet discovered that some of her favorite arias startled and shooed her uninvited visitors away. Those visitors were bears.

Just in time for the final weekend of summer, she’s shared her “Bear-Scare Aria Playlist” with us.

Forget the traditional banging of pots and pans. If you’re headed to the wilderness to cap off the summer this Labor Day Weekend, be sure to take these tunes along. You’ll enjoy them and it might keep those pesky bears away.
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Soprano So Young Park To Compete In Operalia

So Young Park; Photo: Lanley Le

So Young Park; Photo: Lanley Le

So Young Park is no stranger to Los Angeles operagoers.

Since 2014, Park has appeared in multiple LA Opera productions and concerts. The coloratura soprano first set foot on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage as Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro and has since wowed audiences in leading roles including the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Blondchen in The Abduction from the Seraglio and Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann.

“As Olympia, the mechanical doll that Hoffmann is tricked into believing is his love, So Young Park…sang spectacularly.” – Los Angeles Times

On July 24, the Domingo-Colburn-Stein alumna will compete in Operalia, Plácido Domingo’s annual opera competition, and sharing her high notes with the world.

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Hear Morris Robinson Discuss His Journey to the Opera Stage

Morris Robinson; Photo: Ron Cadiz

Morris Robinson; Photo: Ron Cadiz

On January 28, Morris Robinson returns to LA Opera as Osmin in Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio. The talented bass has sung in the world’s greatest opera houses in the last decade, but he did not always dream about a career in opera.

Morris Robinson as Osmin (left) and Brenton Ryan as Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio (2017); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Morris Robinson as Osmin (left) and Brenton Ryan as Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio (2017); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

In this edition of our collaboration with Living with A Genius, hear Robinson discuss Osmin and what led him to become an opera singer.

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James Conlon Talks Mozart and The Abduction from the Seraglio

A scene from James Robinson's "Orient Express" production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

A scene from James Robinson’s “Orient Express” production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

“Nothing is as ugly as vengeance, whereas the quality of great souls is to be humanely kind and forgive without selfishness.” (Act III, The Abduction from the Seraglio*)

In the final months of his life, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completed two operas, written simultaneously in 1791: The Magic Flute, a German Singspiel (“singing play”) alternating musical numbers with spoken dialogue; and La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus), an Italian opera seria. He might just as well have given his earlier Singspiel, 1782’s The Abduction from Seraglio, a different title: The Clemency of Pasha Selim. After all, the planned abduction fails to materialize. And of the many issues addressed in this work, the rejection of vengeance and the power of forgiveness are at its center, embodied in the person of Pasha Selim.

Impatient to impress Kaiser Joseph II, one of Europe’s greatest Enlightenment monarchs, Mozart jumped at the opportunity to “lift the national German stage to recognition in music!” He showed that not just he, but German music, could be freed from the virtual monopoly of Italian opera. Taking the popular form of Singspiel, he merges it with Italianate sophistication. This, in time, would lead to The Magic Flute, Beethoven’s Fidelio and the 19th-century German genre of Spieloper (“opera play”).

A scene from James Robinson's "Orient Express" production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

A scene from James Robinson’s “Orient Express” production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

Mozart was 20 when British historian and man of letters Horace Walpole reiterated in a private letter what was to become his famous epigram: “The world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.” The highly cultured Walpole might even have heard about the young genius from Salzburg.

Comedies make us think through provoking laughter and humor. Tragedies and melodramas make us feel, and sometimes weep. In the 18th century, Italian opera was compartmentalized: opera buffa made us laugh, opera seria made us think. Most importantly, they both pleased the ear. Mozart clouded this distinction by elevating the level of comic opera to deal with more serious subjects.

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The Abduction from the Seraglio: Mozart’s Ambitious Declaration of Independence

A scene from James Robinson's "Orient Express" production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

A scene from James Robinson’s “Orient Express” production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

With The Abduction from the Seraglio, Mozart scored the biggest stage success he would enjoy during his lifetime. It premiered in Vienna on July 16, 1782, and, by the fourth performance—according to Mozart himself—the show was “creating such a sensation that they don’t want to see or hear anything else, and the theater is packed full each time.”

Nowadays Abduction ranks among the less frequently encountered of Mozart’s mature stage works. One reason might be that it suffers from what director James Robinson calls “ugly-title syndrome.” Catchy titles, to be sure, can go a long way toward securing recognition for even second-rate works. Robinson adds: “Abduction is underrated in many ways. It’s one of the most unabashedly romantic pieces that Mozart ever wrote. The way he addresses relationships and longing, as well as all the things that accompany love and its potential loss, is so heartfelt. Abduction wears its emotions on its sleeve. And it’s also a wonderfully funny piece.”

The stakes for the success of Abduction were high.

When Mozart started working on his new project in the summer of 1781, he was right in the middle of a period of profound transition—personally as well as professionally. The year had started with the premiere, in Munich, of Idomeneo, an ambitious opera that represented a major artistic leap forward for the composer. A few months after that came a dramatic confrontation with his boss, Count Hieronymus Colloredo, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Among the many reasons Mozart felt so miserable at Colloredo’s provincial court was the lack of opportunities to write opera, the art form he loved most of all.

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4 Reasons to See The Abduction from the Seraglio Next Month

A scene from James Robinson's "Orient Express" production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

A scene from James Robinson’s “Orient Express” production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

Ever since last season’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, we’ve been eagerly waiting to stage another one of Mozart’s work at LA Opera. Next month, we get to do just that! Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio opens on January 28 and here are five reasons to see this riotous opera.

Did we mention that it’s Mozart?

Mozart’s effervescent score is sure to thrill audiences—even though Emperor Joseph II asked that Mozart cut a few notes from the piece when it was first presented to him. (Check out that moment and the finale of Abduction as depicted in the Miloš Forman biopic Amadeus below.)

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GIVING TUESDAY: MY OPERA EXPERIENCE

 

Giving Tuesday: My Opera Experience

The following is a personal story from Clemence Yi, an 8th grade student, who has participated in LA Opera’s education programs. As a non-profit organization, LA Opera relies on donations from individuals like you to fund programs that introduce students like Clemence to opera and ensure the art form thrives for generations to come.

Help make programs like these possible. Visit LAOpera.org/Donate

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Summer Hassan Has Always Loved Singing

Summer Hassan; Photo: Kristin Hoebermann

Summer Hassan; Photo: Kristin Hoebermann

Many of the opera singers that comb through the halls of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion never conceived of a career in opera. Some started their careers late in life, after having an epiphany that they loved music, while others began their careers after thinking they would play professional sports. But, for soprano Summer Hassan, it’s always been singing.

“When I was six years old, my mom took me to see The Phantom of the Opera in Toronto. The music and singing thrilled me and I found myself – even at that young age – wanting to be on that stage, singing, and knowing every single thing that was going on. I wanted to part of it,” recalls Hassan. She continues, “At the time, I thought The Phantom of the Opera was an opera. It wasn’t, but there was something about the word ‘opera’ that caught my attention.”

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Omar Crook on LA Opera and Living With A Genius

Omar Crook

Omar Crook; Photo: Marc Royce

LA Opera chorister Omar Crook has appreciated opera since he was a child, spending summers roaming the creaky corridors of his grandparents’ house.

“My grandfather had a really nice tape player. One day, I came across the iconic Decca recording of Luciano Pavarotti singing Canio in Pagliacci,” says Crook. “I had just finished playing Billy Idol’s ‘Eyes Without a Face,’ and I was jazzed up. Then, I played all of Pagliacci and the music grabbed me just as much.”

Crook did not immediately pursue opera. In fact, he spent several years narrowing down the careers he wanted, taking a variety of classes from literature to marine biology. He ultimately decided on writing and was accepted into UCLA’s creative writing program. To transfer to UCLA from Santa Monica college, he needed to fulfill one more requirement. That’s how Crook found himself in a beginning voice class.

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