The Magic Flute

  • 2008-11-19
  • By Kristina Pauksens

QUEEN OF THE NIGHT: The Queen amazed the audience with her powerful and versatile voice. Though the rendition of the opera was untraditional, it was certainly memorable.

RIGA - A magical and dreamlike aura has descended on the Latvian National Opera, as delicate as a birdsong 's Mozart's final masterpiece, "The Magic Flute," has arrived in Riga.
A magic flute and magical bells could be heard resounding through the Opera House at the grand opening, which took place on Nov. 7.

The audience was delighted by the avant-garde interpretation of a classic opera, created under the careful direction of Viesturs Kairiss.  His version of the famous opera is not only brilliantly comedic, it also pushes boundaries. Kairiss invites audiences to question the nature of humankind, and more specifically the importance of enlightenment vis-a-vis the fulfillment of bodily desires. He leaves audiences questioning the importance of personal freedom as opposed to membership in powerful groups.
Mozart's "The Magic Flute" (Die Zauberflote) contains prominent Masonic elements, which reflects the fact that Mozart himself was a Mason and a lodge brother. Traditional interpretations of the opera glorify the king Sarastro as an enlightened and all-knowing ruler who has perfectly mastered self restraint, and thus gained true wisdom. 

However, in the newest Latvian National Opera interpretation, there seems to be a hint of sarcasm and a number of deliberate parallels with the Soviet Union. Sarastro appeared as a tall and unsmiling Lenin, worshiped by hordes of deindividualized and brainwashed clones dressed in black business suits. This can easily be seen as a reflection of Latvia's recent history, and the wariness of its people toward the idea of absolute power embodied in a single man.

"The Magic Flute" is an opera with an interesting history. Mozart composed the work at the age of 35, in the final year of his life. The opera premiered in Vienna in 1791, where it was astonishingly successful. It was performed 24 times in a single month following the premiere and it brought in revenues that far exceeded expectations. The opera also has quite a long history in Latvia.  It was first performed in Riga in 1797.
"The Magic Flute" is a classic example of a "Singspiel," a popular form of opera that includes both singing and spoken dialogue.  In this rendition, both the singing and the acting were right on the mark.
Some characters in "The Magic Flute" were most notable for their physical comedy and others for their powerful voices 's as is typical in a Singspiel. The most comedic character was certainly Papageno, a naive bird-catching youth who is struck by a strong desire to find the girl of his dreams. 

Papageno delights in earthly pleasures 's good food, good wine, and the happiness of love and sex 's leaving audience members questioning why anyone in their right mind would reject these delights in favor of a cold and restrained "enlightenment." Papageno and his lover Papagena also had audiences laughing out loud.
The best voice in the opera was arguably The Queen of the Night 's she got by far the most applause. Her aria "the vengeance of hell boils in my heart" reaches a high F6, which is rare in opera and shows great talent and versatility on the part of the singer.

The key players in "The Magic Flute" are opera stars Viesturs Jansons, Kristine Gailite, Juris Adamsons, and Natalija Mironova.  The talented cast was truly memorable.
The stage design was another wonderful surprise in "The Magic Flute." The gates of Nature, Reason and Wisdom were depicted not as gates at all, but giant pillars shaped like naked men with their heads obscured by the curtain.  They looked much like the Oscar statuettes awarded to actors in America.

"The Magic Flute" will be performed again on Dec. 4, Jan. 11, Feb. 1, March 24 and June 4.