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Welcome to Mozart’s imagination run wild, in a playground on the path to enlightenment, brought to life with spellbinding costumes and effects from Julie Taymor, director of Broadway sensation Disney’s The Lion King.
If you go down to the woods today, you might find a pure-hearted prince and his feathered sidekick en route to rescue a damsel in distress; a queen atop her starry throne; mysterious temples, dancing bears and a levitating picnic.
If in danger, just follow the sound of the flute. No, it’s not Disney – this is opera.
For The Magic Flute, Mozart truly embraced his inner child, and in Julie Taymor’s anything-is-possible production she reaches out to everyone’s inner child.
A nine-metre serpent, towering polar bears and hundreds of props painstakingly hand-crafted bring a kaleidoscope of colour and whimsy to favourites like the stratospheric Queen of the Night’s Arias and Papageno’s cheery pipe song.
The props department at Opera Australia is responsible for the manufacture of much of what you see on stage.
While the production was first designed for New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the production you see here has been created a new, from the ground up, in Opera Australia’s set construction, props and wardrobe workshops.
“There are small intimate hand puppets operated by the dancers very close around the performers, such as the silkcovered wire-framed birds, all of them beautifully hand painted,” explains Mat Lawrence, head of props for the original build.
“Then there’s the giant goose. It flies at about 4 metres off the ground. We use aluminium, carbon fibre and silk to make it as light as possible.”
Co-ordinating the construction was as full of challenges as Tamino’s quest to save Pamina: the set, costumes and props teams puzzled over how to make the nine-metre serpent’s turning circle as tight as possible, how to avoid injury to the dancers, and even how to fit the giant puppets in the wings when they were not in use.
Above all, the Opera Australia build needed to be true to Julie Taymor’s unique aesthetic, a look which extends to every part of the show from costumes to props to hair and even make-up.
“It’s a wonderful piece of theatre,” says resident director Matthew Barclay, “and it’s also a work of art in every dimension – costumes, puppetry, choreography, lighting and scenic design – they together create a magical storytelling world worthy of Mozart’s extraordinary musical imagination”.
|Originally directed by||Julie Taymor|
|Set Designer||George Tsypin|
|Costume Designer||Julie Taymor|
|Puppetry Designers||Julie Taymor and Michael Curry|
|Lighting Designer||Gary Marder|
|Original lighting design||Donald Holder|
|Original choreography||Mark Dendy|
|Translation by||JD McClatchy|
|Queen of the Night||Emma Pearson
|1st Lady||Jane Ede
|2nd Lady||Sian Pendry
|3rd Lady||Dominica Matthews|
Performed by arrangment with The Metropolitan Opera, publisher and sole copyright holder.
Running time: approx two hours with one twenty-minute interval.
Performed in English with surtitles.
A mythical land between the sun and the moon.
Three ladies in the service of the Queen of the Night save the fainting Prince Tamino from a serpent. When they leave to tell the queen, the bird catcher Papageno bounces in and boasts to Tamino that it was he who killed the creature. The ladies return to give Tamino a portrait of the queen’s daughter, Pamina, who they say is enslaved by the evil Sarastro, and they padlock Papageno’s mouth for lying. Tamino falls in love with Pamina’s face in the portrait. The queen, appearing in a burst of thunder, is grieving over the loss of her daughter; she charges Tamino with Pamina’s rescue. The ladies give a magic flute to Tamino and silver bells to Papageno to ensure their safety, appointing three spirits to guide them.
Sarastro’s slave Monostatos pursues Pamina but is frightened away by the feather-covered Papageno, who tells Pamina that Tamino loves her and intends to save her. Led by the three spirits to the temple of Sarastro, Tamino is advised by a high priest that it is the queen, not Sarastro, who is evil. Hearing that Pamina is safe, Tamino charms the animals with his flute, then rushes to follow the sound of Papageno’s pipes. Monostatos and his cohorts chase Papageno and Pamina but are left helpless by Papageno’s magic bells. Sarastro, entering in great ceremony, promises Pamina eventual freedom and punishes Monostatos. Pamina is enchanted by a glimpse of Tamino, who is led into the temple with Papageno.
Sarastro tells his priests that Tamino will undergo initiation rites. Monostatos tries to kiss the sleeping Pamina. He is discovered by the Queen of the Night, who dismisses him. She gives her daughter a dagger with which to murder Sarastro.
The desperate Pamina is confronted and consoled by Sarastro. Tamino and Papageno are told by a priest that they must remain silent and refrain from eating, a vow that Papageno immediately breaks when he takes a glass of water from a flirtatious old lady. The old lady vanishes when he asks her name. The three spirits appear to guide Tamino through the rest of his journey and to tell Papageno to be quiet. Tamino remains silent even when Pamina appears, which breaks her heart since she cannot understand his reticence.
The priests inform Tamino that he has only two more trials to complete his initiation. Papageno longs for a cuddly wife but eventually settles for the old lady. When he promises to be faithful she turns into a young Papagena but soon disappears.
After many dangers, Pamina and Tamino are reunited and face the ordeals of water and fire protected by the magic flute.
Papageno is saved from attempted suicide by the spirits, who remind him that if he uses his magic bells he will find true happiness. When he does, Papagena appears and the two plan for the future and move into a bird’s nest. The Queen of the Night, her three ladies, and Monostatos attack the temple but are defeated and banished. Sarastro joins Pamina and Tamino as the people hail Isis, Osiris, and the triumph of courage, virtue, and wisdom.
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera; originally published in the Met Playbill.
This production of The Magic Flute is an enchanting experience for the whole family. We have created our Guide to The Magic Flute to introduce the story and colourful characters before you see the show, so parents and children know who and what to expect. You'll feel like you're meeting old friends as they appear on stage!
This is a world where animals dance and children fly, where princes battle dragons and hope battles despair. Julie Taymor, director of Disney’s The Lion King, has taken Mozart’s fairy tale and turned it into a show that, in the spirit of the original, speaks to the child in all of us.
Monsters and magical flutes, princes and priests, bears and buffoons: A one-stop guide to help you tell friend from foe in the colourful world of The Magic Flute.
The tale of a magic flute, a handsome prince and his feathered friend who set out on an adventure to find and rescue a princess.
Part 3 - coming soon.
'This version of The Magic Flute is a winner.'
'A visual delight.'
'One of the world's favourite operas, and this version will be loved by everybody.'
'The audience gasped when a flock of tropical birds fluttered over their heads...'
Sydney Morning Herald
'A stunning and captivating piece so exquisitely realised, that it would be difficult for any theatre goer to not be in awe of this truly breathtaking performance.'
'The spectacle is tremendous... funny, clearly told, musically excellent, exciting and magical to see and experience.'
'A rich, fantastic feast of colour'
Sunday Herald Sun
'Julie Taymor is the ideal director-visionary to tackle The Magic Flute...rarely have this story and its bizarre characters been so well served.'
'Colourful spectacle and imaginative design'
'The audience is enchanted by gigantic animal puppets and bedazzled by spectacularly colourful sets and costumes.'