Music Director Emeritus James Levine conducts the full-length German version of Mozart’s magical fable, seen in Julie Taymor’s spectacular production, which captures both the opera’s earthy comedy and its noble mysticism.
Premiere: Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden, Vienna, 1791. Die Zauberflöte—a sublime fairy tale that moves freely between earthy comedy and noble mysticism—was written for a theater located just outside Vienna with the clear intention of appealing to audiences from all walks of life. The story is told in a Singspiel (“song-play”) format characterized by separate musical numbers connected by dialogue and stage activity, an excellent structure for navigating the diverse moods, ranging from solemn to lighthearted, of the story and score. The composer and the librettist were both Freemasons—the fraternal order whose membership is held together by shared moral and metaphysical ideals—and Masonic imagery is used throughout the work. The story, however, is as universal as any fairy tale.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) died prematurely three months after the premiere of Die Zauberflöte. It was his last produced work for the stage. (The court opera La Clemenza di Tito had its premiere three weeks before Die Zauberflöte, on September 6, 1791, though its score was completed later.) The remarkable Emanuel Schikaneder (1751–1812) was an actor, singer, theater manager, and friend of Mozart. He suggested the idea of Die Zauberflöte, wrote the libretto, staged the work, sang the role of Papageno in the initial run and even recruited his three young sons to join the roster.
Julie Taymor – Production
Donald Holder – Lighting Designer
George Tsypin – Set Designer
Julie Taymor, Michael Curry – Puppet Designer
Julie Taymor Costume Designer
Mark Dendy – Choreographer
James Levine – Conductor
Golda Schultz – Pamina
Kayhryn Lewek – Queen of the Night
Charles Castronovo – Tamino
Markus Werba – Papageno
Christian Van Horn – Speaker
Tobias Kehrer – Sarastro
Rene Pape – Sarastro
The libretto specifies Egypt as the location of the action. Egypt was traditionally regarded as the legendary birthplace of the Masonic fraternity, whose symbols and rituals populate this opera. Some productions include Egyptian motifs as an exotic nod to this idea, but many more opt for a more generalized mythic ambience to convey the otherworldliness that the score and overall tone of the work call for.
Die Zauberflöte was written with an eye toward a popular audience, but the varied tone of the work requires singers who can specialize in several different musical genres. The comic and earthy are represented by the baritone, Papageno, while true love in its noblest forms is conveyed by the tenor, Tamino, and the soprano, Pamina. The bass, Sarastro, expresses the solemn and the transcendental. The use of the chorus is spare but hauntingly beautiful, and fireworks are provided by the coloratura Queen of the Night.