Monday, January 31, 2011

The Magic Flute

'The Magic Flute is one of those works that is capable of enchanting a child; at the same time it can move the most experienced of men to tears and uplift the wisest'
Albert Einstein

The Magic Flute is Mozart's last opera, composed in 1791. The work is in the form of a Singspiel, a popular form that included both singing and spoken dialogue.


The Magic Flute is noted for its prominent Masonic elements; Schikaneder and Mozart were Masons and lodge brothers (see: Mozart and Freemasonry). The opera is also influenced by Enlightenment philosophy, and can be regarded as an allegory advocating enlightened absolutism. The Queen of the Night represents a dangerous form of obscurantism or, according to some interpreters, contemporary Roman Catholicism. Her antagonist Sarastro symbolises the enlightened sovereign who rules according to principles based on reason, wisdom, and nature. The story itself portrays the education of mankind, progressing from chaos through religious superstition to rationalistic enlightenment, by means of trial (Tamino) and error (Papageno), ultimately to make "the Earth a heavenly kingdom, and mortals like the gods".

Blah, Blah, Blah..


The story is fundamentally a fairy tale for both children and adults. Its music ranges from simple, folk tunes such as Papageno's "Ein Vogelfänger bin ich ja" to the downright bitchy/bitchin' Queen of the Night's "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart").

I'll spare you a synopsis of the story, but several are available. However, for a synopsis, don't see the Smurfs and the Magic Flute (download here), cuz as I found out after watching it, it's based "The Flute with Six Holes", and not the Schikaneder/Mozart opera. (However, it is still worth watching...)

A good rendition of Mozart's Magic Flute IS available here. It's the Kenneth Branagh version, awesomely set during World War I, with the screenplay co-written by none other than Stephen Fry, and special effect by Garry Cooper.

So, just to get a feel for it, here's one more youtube video...

- Overture first! (btw, James Levine rocks the shit out of that overture)

Also, the (wtf) Magic Flute Bike Pump!


The Toronto show (with some inside information... haha.. maybe this is available from the website, I don't know.. ;) is set out as follows, from the Diane Paulus' director notes:

We have set the action in 1791, the year in which the opera was first performed, against the backdrop of the Enlightenment....We have sought to explore the layers of comedy, fairytale, and myth that come together in live performance. The entire opera has been re-imagined as a play-within-the-play – a performance being created before our eyes by the members of a household and their guests in celebration of the name day of the
opera’s heroine, Pamina.


Now, for something really cool. Einstein, Mozart and the Magic Flute...

Psychosis, creativity, and the neuregulin 1 gene. Some wild speculation on an Einstein/Mozart connection.

...Mann turned to Einstein. "It would give us great joy," he said, "to make music with you." Einstein in 1952 no longer had a violin, but the musicians had taken an extra. Einstein chose Mozart's brooding Quintet in G minor.

"Dr. Einstein hardly referred to the notes on the musical score," Mr. Mann recalled, adding, "while his out-of-practice hands were fragile, his coordination, sense of pitch, and concentration were awesome."

He seemed to pluck Mozart's melodies out of the air.


His son, Hans Albert, recalled that "whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all the difficulties."


Einstein's second wife, Elsa, who confided that she first fell in love with Einstein because of the way he plays Mozart beautifully on the violin, said Einstein also plays the piano (his mom was a pianist).

"Music helps him when he is thinking about his theories. He goes to his study, comes back, strikes a few chords on the piano, jots something down, returns to his study."


[Albert] Einstein once said that while Beethoven created his music, Mozart's "was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master." Einstein believed much the same of physics, that beyond observations and theory lay the music of the spheres — which, he wrote, revealed a "pre-established harmony" exhibiting stunning symmetries. The laws of nature, such as those of relativity theory, were waiting to be plucked out of the cosmos by someone with a sympathetic ear.


Anyway, that's it for now. I'm SUPER excited for the show tomorrow night (can you tell??). I'm a little worried about the weather, but what's the worst that can happen?.. I get stuck in Toronto for a couple days?

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